What does the Wife of Bath really want in The Canterbury Tales?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After a terrifically long story with multiple interruptions for commentary on her own life, the Wife of Bath finally gets to the point of her story.  She, and all women according to her, want to be in charge of their husbands and lovers.  They want to control the money, the sex, and the passion of any given relationship.  That is what the knight was told to say to save his life, and it was the correct answer.  To the Wife of Bath, her story reflects her own attitudes towards women and love relationships too.  Throughout her narration, she frequently takes opportunities to tell the rest of the travelers about her various husbands and failed relationships.  It's clear from her telling that she is a very domineering personality and is really only interested in being with a rich man that she can control.  

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her story, the Wife of Bath tells of a knight that has to find the correct answer to the question: What do women really want?

After a lot of wondering and looking for the correct answer, the knight finally answers the question: Women want to be in charge of their husbands.

The Wife of Bath, having been married a number of times, mentions in different occasions the joys of marriage, and it all comes down to sex, money, and love.

If we combine her tale with the story of her life, we can conclude that she wants the comforts and joys of marriage down to the basic elements of money, sex, and passion. She is fond of all three equally and she even encourages other women to marry for similar reasons.

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The Canterbury Tales

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