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

Husband No. 5 continues to regale his wife with stories of wicked women, now switching to husband – murderers: Clytemnestra, Livia, Lucia who allegedly killed her husband, the famous poet Lucretius, by giving him a dodgy love-potion. In his place I would start to worry about giving his wife ideas. He also tells her a hilarious anecdote about a guy complaining to a friend that his three wives all committed suicide by hanging themselves on the same tree in their garden, to which the friend answers “Oh please, can you plant this tree in my garden?” Hargh hargh. So at some point the Wife hits him, tears three pages out of his book and throws them into a fire. He is very angry and hits her back so hard that she faints. When he sees what he’s done he’s aghast and about tu run away, but she comes round and calls out to him: “Did you murder me for my lands? Then kiss me and let me die”, He is mortified and says “I swear I’ll never hit you again, even though it was your fault, please forgive me!”. She hits him back hard as a revenge and threatens she is going to die now. But she doesn’t, they make up and according to her words, from that point on they are a very happy couple: he immediately burns the whole book and lets himself be ruled by her, while she is a kind and loyal spouse to him. Now this is not quite in keeping about what she said about her fifth marriage: that they kept on fighting by day and making up by night. Was it Chaucer’s not completing his revisions? Or is the Wife an unreliable narrator, making it up as she goes along, revising the story of her marriage in the course of her narrative?


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