Comments on Melibee

The Goodman of Paris (c. 1392-1394)


Comments (to his wife) on the Story of Melibee

The ninth article showeth how that you shall be wise when your husband beareth him foolishly, as young and simple folk often do, and that you should gently and wisely draw him away from his follies. First, if he is in mind to be wroth and deal ill with you, take heed that by good patience and gentle words you slay his proud cruelty, and if thus you can do, you will so have vanquished him that he will rather be dead than do you ill, and he will remember him so often hereafter of your goodness, howbeit he saith no word thereof to you, that you shall have him wholly drawn unto you. And if you cannot move him that he turn his wrath from you, take heed that you make not plaint thereof to your friends or to others, so that he may perceive it, for he will think the less of you and will remember it another time; but go you into your chamber and weep gently and softly in a low voice, and make your plaint to God; and thus do all wise ladies. And if perchance he be prone to wrath against another person less near unto him, do you wisely refrain him. . . .

[Here follows the Tale of Melibee]

Wherefore I say unto you that it behoveth good ladies, subtly, cautiously and gently, to counsel and refrain their husbands from the follies and silly dealings whereunto they see them drawn and tempted, and in no wise to think to turn them aside by lording over them, nor by loud talk, by crying to their neighbours or in the street, by blaming them, by making plaint to their friends and parents, nor by other masterful means. For all this bringeth nought but irritation and the making of bad worse, for the heart of man findeth it hard to be corrected by the domination and lordship of a woman, and know that there is no man so poor nor of so small value that would not be lord and master when he is wed.


The Goodman of Paris, tr. Eileen Power (London: Routledge, 1928), pp. 187-88. [Reported as out of copyright by Richard M. Golden and Thomas Kuehn, eds., Western Societies: Primary Sources in Social History, Vol I, (New York: St Martins, 1993). p. 330.]