The Wife of Bath's Tale
TEFL 275 Survey of English Literature
The tale of Wife of Bath is one of the few tales that is concerned mainly with women in Canterbury Tales. The tale itself is an Arthurian Romance where there is a knight as a protagonist , a journey dedicated to find an answer to a question and the appearance of court and forest as the places where incidents happen This tale also resembles the form of “ Breton lai ” which was originated in Britanny. It is a genre of romance consists of narrative short poems which include knights, ladies and supernatural events.
In the days of King Arthur when fairies abounded in England, one day one of the knights of the noble king rapes a maiden that he sees walking before him. As a result of his crime his punishment is to be condemned to death but with the request of the queen from Arthur, the king decides his queen to rule his punishment and for his offense Queen and her ladies decides to give him a year and a day for to come up with an answer to the question of what women most desire, for to spare his life. Desperately the knight takes his leave for to start his quest.
He spends his days, weeks and months by visiting every house and every place by asking the question that its answer can save his life but he cannot come across to anyone that agrees on one single answer. Some says women love riches best, some says honor, some says gaiety, others point out rich clothes, lust in bed or frequently to be widowed and wedded , some insists on that it is love as the best answer or to be flattered or simply to be free and do as they please to be the answers of knight's question. One of the interesting answers is women's wish to be thought to be capable of discretion which is clearly not the answer of the Knight's question but the Wife digresses from knight's tale further to quote a tale about Midas's ears.
The wife turns to her tale, telling how the knight finally reaches a point in his quest where he loses all his hopes to find the answer that he seeks for and how it is time for him to return back. While he was in d
desperate spirits on his way to the castle he sees twenty four young ladies dancing in the forest and he approaches them early having the hope to get some wisdom from them about women’s most desire. But as he comes closer all the ladies vanishes out of thin air and instead he finds a loathly lady where he expected to see the dancing ladies. The loathly lady was old and was very ugly that no man can imagine an uglier one. The lady asks the knight what he seeks for and adds that she knows many things as she is an old folk. After the knight tells her his story and his quest, loathly lady informs him if he pledges to do what she asks next from him, she could tell the answer that will save his life. Without having another choice, knight accepts her offer and the lady whispers the answer to his ear.
On the chosen day, the knight gives his answer before the queen and the ladies of the court: what women most desire is to have sovereignty over their husbands. All the ladies in the court agree that the knight has answered right and deserves to keep his life. After his life is spared the old lady steps forward to inform the queen about the knight's pledge to her and asks the knight to accept her as his wife. Even though he is quite reluctant to accept her offer, as his pledge requires him, the knight has been left without any other option but to marry her.
The knight marries the lady privately. On their wedding knight when his wife comes to bed, she reproves him for his lack of enthusiasm. He replies by condemning her as ugly, old and of low birth. She says that she could change all of these things within three days, but first she takes him to task for his attitude. She explains at length, quoting Dante, Valerius, Seneca, Boethius, Juvenal and the scriptures,...