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The Wife of Bath's Portrait

Wife of Bath
From the Ellesmere Manuscript

Audio Reading by Anniina Jokinen, ©2009.
Anniina studied Chaucer at UCLA under V. A. Kolve.

For the direct .MP3 file, click here.

      A GOOD WIF was ther of biside BATHE,
But she was som-del deef and that was scathe.
Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt
She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt.
In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon
That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon,
And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she,
That she was out of alle charitee.
Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground,—
I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound,—
That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed.
Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed
Ful streite y-teyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe;
Boold was hir face and fair and reed of hewe.
She was a worthy womman al hir lyve,
Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve,
Withouten oother compaignye in youthe,—
But ther-of nedeth nat to speke as nowthe,—
And thries hadde she been at Jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a straunge strem;
At Rome she hadde been and at Boloigne,
In Galice at Seint Jame, and at Coloigne,
She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye.
Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.
Upon an amblere esily she sat,
Y-wympled wel, and on hir heed an hat
As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;
A foot mantel aboute hir hipes large,
And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe;
Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce,
For she koude of that art the olde daunce.








446. som-del, somewhat.
        scathe, scaith, harm.
447. haunt, practice.
448. Gaunt, Ghent.
450. to the offrynge, offerings in kind or money at mass and other services
        were presented by the people going up in order to the priest.
453. coverchiefs, kerchiefs, head-dresses, worn under the hat.
459. worthy, well-to-do, respectable.
460. at chirche dore, the first part of the marriage service used to be read at the church door.
461. Withouten, besides.
462. nowthe, now.
465. Boloigne, Boulogne, where an image of the B. Virgin was exhibited to pilgrims.
466. In Galice at S. Jame, i. e. at the shrine of St. James of Compostella in Galicia in Spain.
        Coloigne, to the shrine of the Three Kings of the East at Cologne.
467. koude, knew.
468. Gat-tothed, gate-toothed, i.e. with teeth wide apart; according to a piece
        of folk-lore quoted by Prof. Skeat, "a sign she should be lucky and travel."
        But in the Wife's Prologue she says:
"Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel,
I hadde the prente of seïnt Venus seel:"
        which points rather to the derivation "goat-toothed," i.e. lascivious.
472. foot mantel, according to the illustration in the Ellesmere MS. this took the form of leggings
        stretching from the hips down over the boots. The spurs were fastened over it.
474. carpe, chatter.
476. koude the olde daunce ("Qu'el scet toute la vielle dance," Rom. de la Rose), knew
        the ancient custom.


Pollard, Alfred W., ed. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Vol II.
London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907. 24-25.

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Copyright ©1996-2023 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created on October 29, 1998 by Anniina Jokinen. Last updated on February 4, 2023.


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