What change does the queen make in the knights sentence?

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pirateteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Wife of Bath's Tale" the knight is charged with raping a young madien. The king decrees that his punishment will be death for his crime, but the queen convinces her husband to change the punishment.  Instead, she wants the knight to find out what it is that women want.  She gives him a year and a day to go on a quest to determine what it is that women most desire.  If he can come back and answer the question, she will grant him his freedom.

The queen she thanked the king with all her might,
And after this, thus spoke she to the knight,
When she'd an opportunity, one day:
"You stand yet," said she, "in such poor a way
That for your life you've no security.
I'll grant you life if you can tell to me
What thing it is that women most desire.
Be wise, and keep your neck from iron dire!
And if you cannot tell it me anon,
Then will I give you license to be gone
A twelvemonth and a day, to search and learn
Sufficient answer in this grave concern.

Luckily, after asking many, many women, the knight is able to find a woman who knows and tells him that women most desire control over their own lives.