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The wife's life with her first three husbands (lines 193-451)
The wife of bath begins this section by giving an account of her first three marriages. She treats her first three marriages as one marriage; talking about how she used the same techniques to control her husbands and does not refer to individual people but a combination of all her first three husbands which she refers to as her husband.
The wife begins, with a shockingly cynical statement, by informing her audience that her first three husbands were good, because they were rich and old and easily controlled. "The thre were goode men, and riche, and olde." This is very degrading to her husbands; she did not care about them at all and is more then willing to stand up in front of a crowd and degrade them. "How pitously a-night I made hem swinke!" Her degradation of her husbands continues as she goes on to tell her audience how easily she controlled them by forcing them to give her their worldly possessions, "And sith they hadde me yeven al hir lond." The wife then goes on to tell about how she used to cheat on her husbands and get away with it if anyone told by convincing them that the person who told them was crazy by getting her friends to convince them she didn't. "And take witnesse of hir owene maide." The wife was also able to get her husbands to buy her new clothes and make up and any item she wanted by taking advantage of their kind nature. She would tell them that she was not respected like her neighbour was because she has not got so many nice things. "I sitte at hoom, I have no thrifty clooth." The wife is very proud of her achievements at controlling her husbands and goes into great detail about how she makes up stories about her husbands getting drunk and insulting her. "Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous, and prechest on thy bench, with ivel preef!" she also says they insult marriage to women in general, saying you cant marry a poor woman "To wedde a povre womman, for costage" and you cant marry rich women "And if that she be riche, of heigh parage, thane seistow that it it a tormentrie to soffre hire pride and hire malencolie." The wife also says that her husbands use petty arguments against her "Thow seist that dropping houses, and eek smoke, and chiding wives maken men to flee.
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The wife may not actually be as bad as she seems, all her cruelty towards her husbands may actually be a cry for attention. In lines 293-302 the wife talks about how she would like to be treated. "Preyse my beautee", "make a feeste on thilke day." So she could just be a sad lonely woman, but if she wants to be treated well insulting and badgering her husbands will not convince them to treat her well. She also talks about wanting her husbands to respect and trust her and stop spying on her so that she can live her life. "I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame Alis", "we wol ben at oure large." She is asking for freedom to do what she wants yet she freely admits that she cheats on her husbands on every opportunity she gets.
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