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The main characters in "The Wife of Bath's Tale" are the knight (who rapes a woman at the beginning of the story and, therefore, is given the option of finding out what women most desire or otherwise losing his life), the hag (who tells the knight the answer to the riddle in exchange for her hand in marriage) and Guinevere and Arthur who, taken together, could be seen as representing wisdom (Guinevere) and force (Arthur). The setting of the story is "In th' olde dayes of the King Arthur" in England, where "Al was this land fulfild of fairye:". In other words, it is a fantastic setting and, for this reason, the genre of the story can best be described as a courtly romance (though, with all of Chaucer's tales, it is not an entirely conventional romance; there are no dragons to slay nor noble objects to discover.) The theme of the tale can best be described as what women desire, particularly from their relationships with men. The answer to this riddle is self-governance; in other words, there is no consistency for all women, but this lack of consistency is the rule.
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