The Wife Of Baths Tale

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					The Wife of Bath's Tale
CHAUCER From the town of Bath comes this woman of worth (Whose hearing is thin though she‟s wide of girth) A fine, sturdy woman, to be sure, (She has ushered five husbands through the church door). She knows many cures for loves mischances, (An art in which she can do all the dances). WIFE OF BATH Thank‟ee, kind sir. Say, have ye got a wife? For once again I‟m widowed, the fifth time in this life! No? Oh well! Fill my soul with glory! If ye will listen, I‟ll tell ye all story. In the reign of Arthur, that noble King, There lived a knight, Sir Peck, who found it amusing To steal a kiss whenever it pleased him, From unsuspecting maidens who were proper and prim. SIR PECK Though it's unacceptable, I find I cannot resist, When there are so many maidens to be kissed... Why there's one now, and she walks alone... MAIDEN Good day Sir Knight, is this the milestone To Camelot? For I go to see my Aunt. SIR PECK Aye and I'll gladly join you if you want. You should have protection as you go. These woods are full of varlets, in case you didn't know. MAIDEN For your company I would be much obli‟ged And since you‟re a knight I‟m sure to be respected. SIR PECK Take my arm then. Is something amiss?

MAIDEN Sir, methinks you tried to steal a kiss! SIR PECK Oh no, fair maid, 'twas your imagination. MAIDEN Forgive me Sir, I must have been mistaken. But why do you hold me so close and tight And whisper in my ear? Sir, this is not right! SIR PECK Just one small kiss my sweet, silly goose… MAIDEN Get off foul man, you let me loose SIR PECK …Upon those lips of velveteen... MAIDEN Just wail until I tell my Aunt…The Queen. Ah, now you loose me fast enough! SIR PECK Fair maid, you joke? You jest? You bluff... MAIDEN I do not bluff or joke or jest, But I am come at her behest. And of your lack of chivalry I'll make it known. Then we shall see Who is the silliest of ganders. That's what one gets when one philanders. QUEEN: Unheard of! Shocking! What a cad! KING Insupportable, he must be mad To have treated a woman in such a way!


QUEEN Justice shall be done this very day! WIFE OF BATH Sir Peck was condemned to lose his head. By course of law, he was as good as dead. But the tender hearted maiden implored for grace, So the King and the Queen pondered the case. KING The stocks, for a year: Would that be ample To teach all mankind to shun his example? Or, perhaps he would profit by cooling his heels In the outermost moat that is swarming with eels? But, my Queen, I shall defer to you: What do you think we ought to do? QUEEN Your life's in peril still, Sir P, But you shall live if you can answer me: What is the thing that women most desire? Think before you speak, lest you misfire... SIR PECK I cannot think ...I do not know... QUEEN I give you twelvemonth and a day to go And find the answer to this query. WIFE OF BATH So at the court he did not tarry, But screwed up his courage and headed west. And thus the Knight began his quest. KING What a woman! SIR PECK Pardon me, Ladies, but might I inquire, What do you think women most desire?


HOUSEWIFE Aye,'tis simple Sir, we most desire leisure. SHEPARDESS Oh no we don't. Its wealth and treasure! That's the thing we women most covet! MILK MAID Nay, it's to be flattered, there's nothing above it. SEAMSTRESS What all women want as everyone knows Are beautiful hats and shoes and clothes. HOUSEWIFE A goose feather cushion propped under my feet And thick clotted cream with gooseberries to eat! SHEPARDESS A gem studded necklace with earrings to match And a purse full of gold with a sapphire catch! MILKMAID A room full of men all down on one knee Declaring there‟s no fairer maiden than me! SEAMSTRESS Dresses of silk and velvet and satin And a coach lined with fur to wear my new hat in! HOUSEWIFE Leisure! SHEPARDESS Wealth! MILKMAID Flattery! SEAMSTRESS Dress!


WIFE OF BATH Each had a different desire to express. Now if he'd asked me, I would have said To be many times widowed and then re-wed. SIR PECK Ladies! Ladies! How can this be? Isn‟t there one thing on which you agree? I‟m desperate! WOMEN To each her own! WIFE The poor knight had never felt so alone. SIR PECK All 'round the country, from sea to sea, I've asked every woman, but they never agree What it is all women love best. WIFE OF BATH Then he turned around with a sorrowful breast And headed for home, he dared no longer stay, For his year was used up. It was now the last day. SIR PECK What‟s that I see on the leafy ground? Why…beautiful maidens…all dancing around. WOMEN Leisure, flattery, clothing, wealth, Marriage, children, learning, health, Clothing, wealth, flattery, leisure, Travel, power, what‟s your pleasure? SIR PECK I‟ll make my inquiry of these maidens fair. But, lo! They‟ve vanished into the air! WIFE OF BATH There wasn‟t a living soul to be found But a wretched old crone sitting bent on the ground.

CRONE Sir Knight, what are you seeking here? What are you looking for my dear? SIR PECK Oh, Mother! I‟m done for! This very day I‟m as good as dead if I cannot say What is it that women most long for. Do you know the answer? I humbly implore CRONE Give me your hand, and swear that you‟ll do Whatever it is I require of you, If it does lie within your might. Swear it! And you‟ll have the answer this night. SIR PECK Upon my honor, Good Crone, I agree! CRONE Then I give you this guarantee: Your life is saved! Good is my claim! Upon my word, the Queen will say the same! WIFE OF BATH She crooned her gospel into his ear, And told him he had nothing to fear. Then they went forth, the Knight in full array, And the Crone all in rags. QUEEN „Tis a year and a day! SIR PECK And I have kept my word. KING Do you have your answer ready? SIR PECK I do and will give it, if it please my lady.


QUEEN Proceed, Sir Peck, define the aspiration Of womankind, but do it with circumspection. KING For your life it hangs by the finest thread! WIFE OF BATH His heart was filled with fear and dread. SIR PECK My Liege, my Lady, it seems to me That a woman wants the self-same sovereignty Over her husband or over her lover: To be master of herself, he must not be above her. That is your greatest wish, whether you kill Or spare me, please yourself. I await your will. QUEEN and MAIDEN Bravo, Sir Knight. Your life is spared! CRONE Aye! Now, Sir, are you prepared? I furnished the answer that was your rescue. Before this court, I demand what is due: Keep your word, and take me as your bride… WIFE OF BATH The ladies fainted, the gentlemen cried. QUEEN Not that Grandmother, surely you jest! KING For God‟s love think of another request MAIDEN Take all his wealth, but leave his body be! CRONE A plague on this kingdom if I agree To that. I may be crooked and old, Yet I will not choose for all the gold

That‟s bedded in the earth or stored above, To be less that your wife…Nay, your very LOVE! WIFE OF BATH And so Sir Peck was forced to wed The Crone, so decrepit and age‟d. And of their nuptials, suffice it to say There was no revelry that day. CRONE Bless my very soul! Is this, my Dear, How husbands and wives get on together here? Are these the laws of King Arthur's house? Are all Knights so contemptuous? Certainly I never ever did you any wrong. So why then is your face so long? Just tell me how and I‟ll put things right. SIR PECK Just leave me alone. Get out of my sight! Nothing will ever be right again! You are ancient! And so abominably plain! So stooped and poor and so low bred! My life is over, I wish I was dead! CRONE Age? Breeding? Wealth and rank?! Enough of this! Let me be frank: There‟s no such thing as “gentle” birth Bequeathed by ancient wealth and worth! He who does what deeds of goodness he can Is by far the greatest “gentle” man! Truly impoverished are those who wine and fret And covet what they want and cannot get. Since being poor‟s no offense, I‟ll be plain: Never rebuke my poverty again! Lastly, you taxed me with being old. Is it possible that you were never told To venerate your elders and revere the sage, And show the utmost respect for old age?!

I give you two choices, which will you try? To have me old and ugly until the day I die, But still a steadfast, loving wife Who will be loyal all your life, OR should I be beautiful, instead of plain And cause you jealousy, strife and pain. SIR PECK My dearest lady wife, your words are hard But fair, and I repent my ill regard. I leave the matter to your wise decision. You make the choice yourself, for the provision Of what may be agreeable and rich In honor to us both, I don't care which; Whatever pleases you suffices me. CRONE Then I have won the mastery? Since I'm to choose as I see fit? SIR PECK Certainly, my dearest wife, that is it. CRONE Then kiss me, my love, No quarrels! Upon my oath And word of honor, you shall find me both. Cast up your eyes, dear husband, look at me... WIFE OF BATH And when the knight looked up to see, Lo, she was lovely, rich in charms. In joy and rapture he held her in his arms. His heart went bathing in a bath of bliss. And from that day forward he never stole a kiss. And so dear Lord, please give hives To those who think they‟re better than their wives.