In "The Wife of Bath's Tale," what riddle does the queen ask the knight to solve?

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the “Wife of Bath’s Tale,” the knight has raped a young woman.  When this is discovered, he is taken before King Arthur for punishment.  King Arthur’s wife, Guinevere, asks to be the one to punish him, and the King agrees.  This is part of the Wife of Bath’s point in telling the story—to show that women should be given power in a relationship.  The “riddle” the knight is asked to solve is:  “What is it all women want?”  She gives him one year and a day to complete this task.  The knight, unfortunately, rides all over the place looking for the answer and asking only men.  Eventually, he finds an old woman in the woods who agrees to answer the question in return for his promise that he will grant her one wish.  Unfortunately for the knight, what she wants is marriage.  He does get the answer to the riddle correct, however—women want power over their husbands.