In "The Wife of Bath's Tale," why does the woman pardon the knight at the end of the story?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At the end of this great story, the knight has to make an almost impossible choice between possessing an incredibly beautiful wife who is unchaste or having a chaste wife who is ugly. His decision to grant his wife mastery over him by asking his wife to choose with the words, "What pleases you is good enough for me," is the answer that his wife was hoping to receive, as this was the mastery that she had been desiring over him and also exemplifies the knight's answer to the queen's question of what it is that women desire most.

The way in which the knight actually gets what he wants by surrendering his mastery and dominion to his wife serves to reinforce this message. The knight is pardoned by his wife, after saying some terrible things to her, precisely because he gave her the correct answer that she was looking for and desired. He comes to not only know what it is that women want intellectually, but also emotionally and in his heart, and he comes to see the fruits of such a relinquishment:

With his whole heart bathed in a bath of bliss;

They kiss; a thousand times they kiss.

And she obeyed him in all things that might

Afford him satisfaction or delight.

The knight is thus forgiven by his wife because he acts out in reality the answer that he gave his Queen. By freely giving his wife mastery, he gives his wife what she and all women most desire, and thus receives a pardon in return.

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