What answer to the Queen's riddle is the knight given?

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juneamy007 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Canterbury Tales by Geoffery Chaucer was written in 1392, but not published until 1475.  It is a compilation of 24 captivating tales.  One of the most famous is "The Wife of Bath's Tale." The story is one of crime, punishment, penance, and karma.

The crime consists of a young lady being raped by one of the King's less-than-noble knights.  His punishment is determined not by the King, but by the Queen. She gives the knight one year and a day to come up with the correct answer to her question. His penance is to fulfill a promise to the woman who finally supplies him with the elusive answer. 

The Queen's question was, "What is it that women most desire?" The knight diligently sought the answer from a wide variety of fair maidens.  

The answer, "A wife most desires sovereignty over her husband" was supplied by an ugly hag who demanded the knight marry her in exchange for the answer to the riddle.

The knight was relieved to be able to supply the Queen with the correct answer, even if it meant that his "blushing bride" would be an unsightly crone.  However, karma stood true.  Once he submitted and accepted his wife, she became a truly stunning maiden and they lived a full and happy life.