Geoffrey Chaucer ‘The Canterbury Tales – The Wife of Bath’s Tale’ ctd.

The Wife continues the story of her marital life. Her fourth husband had a mistress, which the wife, naturally, did not like at all, especially as back then she was still young, full of passion and fond of drink. She goes on a digression about how wine makes women lecherous, in contrast to men, whom it tends to make impotent. and how one Metellus killed his wife for drinking wine. [And this is the place where the editors of the NAEL fail to supply a note where it is needed. They are really like shop assistants at Sephora, who keep on asking you “May I help you?” when you don’t need them and disappear when you do need them. Ahem. I googled the reference to the legend about this Metellus myself.] Anyway, she paid the unfaithful husband back in his own coin, not by actual adultery but by making him jealous. He died when she returned from her pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her marriage with her fifth husband was a stormy one, because he beat her, but he was also able to make up with her in bed and she says that women are perverse creatures, they love best those who are hard to get. Her fifth husband was a clerk who left Oxford and lodged with her best friend Alison. Alison was privy to all the secrets of the Wife and her husband. She gets a bit muddy here but I think at this point she is still married to the husband number four. She told Alison, her another friend and her niece all her husband’s secrets, whether he “pissed on a wal” or did something that could be worthy of capital offence [but that was not peeing in the street, surely? Even in the Middle Ages they could not be that severe. And it’s also interesting that it is considered to be such a shameful secret. Anybody who has seen an English town on Saturday night knows that the customs have changed, not necessarily for the better.]

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