What is the Wife in "The Wife of Bath's Tale" suggesting women want by the end of her tale? Is it really "sovereignty" or autonomy, or is there something else?

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The Wife of Bath appears to indicate that women want it all. She certainly does. And she has no hesitation in projecting her own wishes, wants, and desires onto the rest of womankind.

Sovereignty only has meaning if it's exercised over others. In this case, that means men. By the same token, autonomy means the freedom to live your life the way you want to, irrespective of what other people think. And again, it's freedom from men's wishes and desires that seems to be pertinent here.

In medieval England, sovereignty and autonomy were held to be the exclusive preserve of men, so we can see how radical the Wife of Bath's notions really are. What she's advocating is nothing less than a complete role reversal within male-female relationships.

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The interesting thing about "The Wife of Bath’s Tale" is that she doesn’t seem to provide a clear-cut answer to the question the knight must discover in his quest.

While the hag suggests that what women really want is for their husbands to trust their judgment, the last stanza of the story seems to suggest something different.

The Wife of Bath asks that Jesus send “Us husbands meek and young and fresh in bed,/ And grace to overbid them when we wed.” This quote suggests that women really just want someone they can control (“overbid”) who can also satisfy their sexual appetites. This is further confirmed when she wishes death upon those men “who won’t be governed by their wives.” This means that any husband unwilling to do whatever his wife wants is unworthy of living. Her final prayer implies that women really just want superiority and absolute authority in their lives.

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