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What are the morals in The Wife of Bath's in The Canterbury Tales?I need three morals...

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urmyboo123 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted November 19, 2009 at 3:09 AM via web

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What are the morals in The Wife of Bath's in The Canterbury Tales?

I need three morals and I have two. I need a third one.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted November 21, 2009 at 10:23 AM (Answer #1)

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This is sort of a puzzling question because you don't mention which two "morals" you have. Also the consensus is that there are only two morals to The Wife of Bath's Tale, although the Wife expresses three primary opinions in her tale; more about her opinions can be read in the answer to another question.

The morals in the Wife's tale are usually said to be that (1) women desire dominance over men, or, to use the Old English word, women desire "sovereintee" over men and that (2) granting women dominance over men is in the best interest of men. A third moral could possibly be sketched form between the lines of these two major ones that shows that men see women who have independence of thought and act independently on their opinions as ugly hags who are beneath their notice. Another moral could be that men who exert what some would call their natural dominance over women earn themselves a metaphysical or symbolic beheading and early death.

These morals are demonstrated in this way. A knight in King Arthur's court has exerted his dominance over a young maiden and is about to be punished by a beheading. At the Queen's request, King Arthur gives her dominance and she then exerts dominance over the knight's fate by sending him on a quest that could save him or condemn him.

The knight meets a hag on his journeys, and she agrees to tell him the secret that the Queen has sent him to find if he will then grant her a request in return. Back at the court, the knight gives dominance to the Queen by saying if his answer is not right, he yields to her sovereignty to slay him. He tells the Queen that the answer to her question of what women most desire is that they most desire dominance over men. The Queen exerts her dominance, accepts this answer and spares his life.

The hag appears and demands that the knight fulfill his promise of granting her request, which is that he marry her. He refuses. She is ugly and beneath him. The Queen exerts her dominance again and requires that he wed the hag though he later balks at intimacy with someone so ugly.

The hag tells him that he can choose to have her be beautiful and unfaithful or ugly and faithful, but he declines to choose and gives her dominance over her own decisions of what to be and, more importantly, over his happiness and future life. In the end--in what could be a final moral--because the knight has learned the lesson that giving women dominance results in men's improvement, in mercy and benevolence, in love and fidelity and beauty, the knight lives a happy life with a woman who has independence of thought, of understanding, of opinion, of decision and of action.

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