Faculty Research at Morehead State University


'He Needes Moste Hire Wedde': The Forced Marriage in Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale and its Middle English Analogues


Marc Glasser

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In each of the three Middle English analogues of Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale (The Marriage of Sir Gawaine , The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell, and John Gower's Tale of Florent), the knight knows that marriage is what the hag demands in order to give him the answer to his question, and the knight marries the hag without complaint. Only in Chaucer's Tale is the knight unaware that the hag will eventually demand to marry him, and only in Chaucer's version does the knight subsequently complain violently when he is forced to wed her. Thus, Chaucer's Tale contains greater coercion to marry than any of the analogues. This increased coercion is appropriate for a tale told by the Wife of Bath because her Prologue shows that her marriages have been relationships in which each spouse has struggled to dominate the other.