Essential Passages by Character: The Wife of Bath
Essential Passage 1: General Prologue ("The Wife of Bath")
There was a housewife come from Bath, or near,
Who—sad to say—was deaf in either ear.
At making cloth she had so great a bent
She bettered those of Ypres and even of Ghent.
Her kerchiefs were of finest weave and ground;
I dare swear that they weighed a full ten pound
Which, of a Sunday, she wore on her head.
Her hose were of the choicest scarlet red,
Close gartered, and her shoes were soft and new.
Bold was her face, and fair, and red of hue.
She’d been respectable throughout her life,
With five churched husbands bringing joy and strife,
Not counting other company in youth;
But thereof there’s no need to speak, in truth.
Three times she’d journeyed to Jerusalem;
And many a foreign stream she’d had to stem;
At Rome she’d been, and she’d been in Boulogne,
In Spain at Santiago, and at Cologne.
She could tell much of wandering by the way:
Gap-toothed was she, it is no lie to say.
Upon an ambler easily she sat,
Well wimpled, aye, and over all a hat
As broad as is a buckler or a targe,
A rug was tucked around her buttocks large,
And on her feet a pair of spurs quite sharp.
In company well could she laugh and carp.
The remedies of love she knew, perchance,
For of that art she’d learned the old, old dance.
The Wife of Bath, one of the most famous characters in English literature, is described as being “respectable” all her life. This is said in irony, as she has been married five times, is on her way to find a sixth husband, and has had many lovers both inside and outside of marriage. She is adept at the art of weaving, not out of industry, but out of her love of fine clothing (presumably in order to catch the eye of the opposite sex). She is always eager to relate her encounters with people she has met while visiting Europe's many shrines. Her physical appearance is described as having the favored traits of the day: a large behind (which betokened being well-fed and thus wealthy) and a gap between her front teeth (which was considered attractive and a sure sign of a highly advanced...
(The entire section is 1710 words.)
Essential Passages by Theme: Corruption of the Church
Essential Passage 1: General Prologue ("The Prioress")
There was also a nun, a prioress,
Who, in her smiling, modest was and coy;
Her greatest oath was but “By Saint Eloy!”
And she was known as Madam Eglantine.
Full well she sang the services divine
Intoning through her nose, becomingly;
And fair she spoke her French, and fluently.
At table she had been well taught withal,
And never from her lips let morsels fall,
Nor dipped her fingers deep in sauce, but ate
With so much care the food upon her plate
That never driblet fell upon her breast.
In courtesy she had delight and zest.
Her upper lip was always wiped so clean
That in her cup was no iota seen
Of grease, when she had drunk her draught of wine.
And certainly she was of great disport
And full pleasant, and amiable of port
And went to many pains to put on cheer
Of court, and very dignified appear,
And to be thought worthy of reverence.
But, to say something of her moral sense,
She was so charitable and piteous
That she would weep if she but saw a mouse
Caught in a trap, though it were dead or bled.
She had some little dogs, too, that she fed
On roasted flesh, or milk and fine white bread.
But sore she’d weep if one of them were dead,
Or if men smote it with a rod to smart:
For pity ruled her, and her tender heart.
Full properly her wimple pleated was.
Her nose was straight, her eyes as grey as glass,
Her mouth full small, and also soft and red;
But certainly she had a fair forehead;
It was almost a full span broad, I own,
For, truth to tell, she was not undergrown.
Full stylish was her cloak, I was aware.
Of coral small about her arm she’d bear
A string of beads, gauded all round with green;
And from there hung a brooch of golden sheen
On which there was first written a crowned “A,”
And under, Amor Vincit Omnia.
The Prioress, as the head of a convent, is a depiction of one of the officers of the Church who has neglected her vows of service. From the description provided by Chaucer, one...
(The entire section is 1840 words.)
Whanne that April with his shoures sote
The droughte of March hath perced to the rote.
Canterbury Tales. Prologue. Line 1.
And smale foules maken melodie,
That slepen alle night with open eye,
So priketh hem nature in hir corages;
Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages.
Canterbury Tales. Prologue. Line 9.
And of his port as meke as is a mayde.
Canterbury Tales. Prologue. Line 69.
He was a veray parfit gentil knight.
Canterbury Tales. Prologue. Line 72.
He coude songes make, and wel endite.
Canterbury Tales. Prologue. Line 95.
Ful wel she sange the service devine,
Entuned in hire nose ful swetely;
And Frenche she spake ful fayre and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford atte bowe,
For Frenche of Paris was to hire unknowe.
Canterbury Tales. Prologue. Line 122.
A Clerk ther was of Oxenforde also.
Canterbury Tales. Prologue. Line 287.
For him was lever han at his beddes hed
A twenty bokes, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophie,
Than robes riche, or fidel, or sautrie.
But all be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre.
Canterbury Tales. Prologue. Line 295.
And gladly wolde he lerne, and...
(The entire section is 800 words.)