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The Wife of Bath's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer
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Which quotes from "The Wife of Bath's Tale" show that the Wife of Bath is dishonest and disloyal?

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The Wife of Bath is not necessarily disloyal. She is just a very controlling woman whose husbands seem to die once she gets control of the marriage. Therefore, due to her circumstances, her views on marriage and loyalty are different than what we expect from a "lady."

The first quote...

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The Wife of Bath is not necessarily disloyal. She is just a very controlling woman whose husbands seem to die once she gets control of the marriage. Therefore, due to her circumstances, her views on marriage and loyalty are different than what we expect from a "lady."

The first quote that could be analyzed has to do with her views on marriage. The Wife of Bath has had five husbands, and she is more than willing to get her sixth one. She is not about to sacrifice anything for the sake of morality, dignity, or chastity. She is all about pleasure and wanting to do things her way. She is very honest and open about it, too.

Of fyve husbondes scoleiyng am I.)
[Of five husbands' schooling am I.]
Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.
[Welcome the sixth, whenever he shall appear.]
For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chaast in al.
[For truly, I will not keep myself chaste in everything.]
[...]
For thanne th' apostle seith that I am free
[For then the apostle says that I am free]
To wedde, a Goddes half, where it liketh me.
[To wed, by God's side (I swear), wherever it pleases me.]

(this version is the Harvard translation)

Basically, she is saying that whatever she has to, she will do. She would go ahead and remarry since she is free to do so. She feels that she has God's permission to do as she pleases. Therefore, she is not in the mindset of keeping herself to mourn for one man for the rest of her life.

Another quote that shows that she is not loyal shows that the Wife of Bath had barely put her fourth dead husband in the ground when she immediately spots Jankyn, a twenty-year-old clerk who is beneath her in social rank, poor, and also twenty years younger than the Wife of Bath. The fact that she confesses to fall for him right as the funeral is taking place shows a degree of disloyalty.

To chirche was myn housbonde born a-morwe
[To church was my husband carried in the morning]
[..]
And Jankyn, oure clerk, was oon of tho.
[And Jankin, our clerk, was one of those.]
As help me God, whan that I saugh hym go
[As help me God, when I saw him go]
After the beere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
[After the bier, I thought he had a pair]
Of legges and of feet so clene and faire
[Of legs and of feet so neat and fair]

Not only did the Wife of Bath fall for the young man, but she "gave all her heart" into his keeping. They married very shortly after the funeral of the fourth husband. We also learn that it was very hard for the Wife of Bath to take control of this husband, and she was vulnerable to the fact that he did not show her much love and was quite the misogynist.

They had a chaotic relationship in the beginning, but then things became better before he died. It is important to note that, despite her views, the Wife of Bath was loyal to Jankyn and she did love him. These facts let us see her vulnerabilities as a woman as well.

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