What is a summary of the Wife of Bath's Tale?

lit24 | Student

In Arthur's court, a young knight comes across a beautiful young maiden and overcome by lust rapes her. The knight is ordered to be put to death. However, Arthur's queen and other ladies of the court intercede on his behalf and ask the king to give him one chance to save his own life:if, within one year, he can discover what women want most in the world and report his findings back to the court, he will keep his life. If he cannot find the answer to the queen's question, or if his answer is wrong, he will lose his head.

The Knight after wandering all over the place is not able find a satisfactory answer. Finally, an old and ugly woman promises to help him on condition that he marry her. The knight agrees reluctantly and they return to King Arthur's court where she tells the right answer: what women most desire is to be in charge of their husbands and lovers. The knight's life is spared but he is forced to marry her. Needless to say the knight is unhappy, so his old and ugly wife offers the knight a choice: either he can have her to be ugly but loyal and good, or he can have her young and fair but also coquettish and unfaithful, he replies that he would rather trust her judgment, and he asks her to choose whatever she thinks best. Because the knight's answer gave the woman what she most desired, the authority to choose for herself, she becomes both beautiful and good. The two have a long, happy marriage, and the woman becomes completely obedient to her husband.

Read the study guide:
The Canterbury Tales

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