Abstract

The Wife of Bath's famous erudition, resistance to authority, and unapologetic sexuality all come together in one of Chaucer's epithets for her private parts. Bele chose (beautiful thing) occurs only three times: in Chaucer's prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale, in a Middle English translation of a Latin medical text, and—the present paper argues—in the Roman de la Rose. Chaucer uses the term as a deliberate repudiation of pudendum (shameful thing), a term that he does not use but which was undoubtedly known to him through several classical and medieval sources. A survey of all Chaucer's euphemisms for private parts in the Wife of Bath's Prologue contextualizes the discussion.

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