The Wife of Bath’s Tale

In this article will discuss The Wife of Bath’s Tale Summary in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

The wife of Bath tells the story of the time of King Arthur when England was the land of fairies and elves. But, at that age as well, women were dishonoured and treated as sub-humans because now Friars rape women, Elves raped women in those times.

One of King Arthur’s knights rapes a woman whom he discovered while passing by the forest. The whole court is outraged and the punishment for such crime is death.

However, King Arthur bows down to the decision of his wife. The queen promises to spare the life of the knight if in one year’s time he can bring the answer to the question: what do women desire the most?

The knight goes on the journey of finding the answer. He asks the same question every woman he meets and every one of the replies differently. Honour, lust, sexual satisfaction, freedom, dominance, etc. were the answers he gets from women.

Dissatisfied, while coming back, he sees the dance of twenty-four ladies. When he tried to approach them, they disappeared, leaving an old woman in their place for the knight to find. The knight is promised to be given the correct answer if he would grant her one request. The knight agrees.

They appear in the court and the knight told the answer to the queen: the women desire independence and mastery over their husbands. The old lady announces the knight’s promise in the open court leaving the knight with no other choice.

He marries her next day but is completely dissatisfied with the marriage. The old lady is aware of his disappointment. He criticizes her for being old and ugly. The old lady tells him that the true beauty lies within.

The rich people might have deformed character and poor might have a pure heart. She asks him to choose between a wife who’s faithful but old or young and beautiful but the one who’d cuckold him. The knight says the choice is yours, giving her sovereignty.

The knight gives her the authority to choose and she says that she’d be both beautiful and true. She asks him to kiss her and when he does so, she turns into a young beautiful lady. The wife concludes by praying to Christ to grant every women submissive husband and kill all those who are not.