two-faced woman with one half having dark hair and older features and the other half having blonde hair and younger features

The Wife of Bath's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer
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How would you describe the Knight?

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The knight at first appears to be a bad character. The tale begins with the knight raping a woman he finds alone in a deserted place. No explanation is given for his behavior, and the sense is that such crimes are all too common. It is only when the many people petition the king that the knight is brought to trial.

When the knight receives his sentence, which is to travel for a year and a day trying to find out what women want most, he obeys and travels far and wide in search of this wisdom. When he finds the aged fairy, who reveals to him that women want to be masters, he is relieved and agrees to do something for the fairy in return—marry her! The knight is revulsed but honors his word. But when it is time to consummate the marriage, he balks. The fairy makes him a deal: he can enjoy her as she is, old and ugly, and have a happy marriage, or she can become young and lovely, but disgrace the knight and make him a cuckold. In exasperation, the knight decides to let her choose! By letting the woman be the master, the knight wins the ultimate reward: the old woman becomes beautiful and young, and she is faithful and loving as well.

While the knight may seem to redeem himself, on balance, he remains shallow and simple. His relations with women are determined entirely by sex—as with the rape that begins the story, or his reaction to his wife, which is also based solely on her sexual attractiveness. He does not discover what women want but is told this secret by the fairy, who exploits his weakness without his even noticing. It's not clear at the end of the story that the knight has really learned anything about women, other than to allow himself to be led.

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The knight in "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is selfish, desperate, shallow, then wise. 

He's selfish and arrogant enough to rape a young maiden in the kingdom simply because she's alone and he's "lusty." The people rise up and demand that justice be done, but the queen intercedes on his behalf by offering him a deal: Within 12 months and a day, he was to learn what women want most. He accepts the deal. Of course, he travels all over the kingdom and asks everyone, never hearing the same answer twice. When he's on his way back home to meet his fate, having failed in his mission, he makes a deal with an ugly old crone: she will tell him the answer if he agrees to marry her. He agrees out of desperation. 

When the answer turns out to be the right one--women want to be masters of themselves--the old crone tells him he must marry her, but he begs to be let off the hook because he's shallow. He is forced into it anyway, and when he won't bed his wife, she dresses him down (bookishly), then gives him a choice: You can either have me this way knowing I'll never stray and I'll be the best wife you could want until your dying day OR you can have me young and beautiful and know that other men will want me (and I may want them). He thinks about it, then--apparently having learned from his original challenge--says that the choice is hers. He wisely makes her the master of herself. 

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