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Canterbury Tales – The Wife of Bath

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, which was published in March 1981 by Bantam Books in New York, New York is a funny piece of work about twenty- nine characters and their stories while on their way to Canterbury. The twenty-nine characters have to tell two stories on their trip to Canterbury. In the Wife of Bath tale, the wife of bath tells of a tale of a young knight, the central character in the story. After he raped a woman, he must roam the countryside in search to the answer to the question “what is it that women most desire? This is the plot, for he must find the answer in order to live.

The knight only has one year to get to answer this question and then he has to return to King Arthur’s court and await his sentence. The setting is in King Arthur’s court when a young man saw a pretty maiden and raped her. The King was going to sentence him to death but the Queen decided to give him one year to answer the question . The story is told from the Wife of Bath’s point of view for she is narrating the story. So the conflict, being that he has to find the answer, is established. The knight’s journey does not go well.

Finally on the last day that he has, he omes up to a group of women, as he approaches they disappear and an old woman appears. This part is the climax of the plot because it is when the knight finally knows the answer. The old woman says that she knows the answer but she will only tell it to the Queen and in return she must do anything that she asks of him. The knight agrees. Finally, while in the presence of the Queen, she tells her that the answer to what all women desire is sovereignty over their husbands. No one disagrees with her answer and so the old woman asks that she be married to the knight.

The knight having sworn to do whatever she pleased reluctantly agrees. But this is not the resolution. It happens later on while on their wedding night. The knight is somewhat disgusted and so the old woman goes on to lecture him on the trivial nature of appearances. She tells the knight whether he would prefer to have a woman ugly by day, yet loyal and faithful the rest of the time or to be beautiful and take his chances the rest of the time. The knight becomes really perplexed by this whole new situation and so chooses to have her decide.

This is the resolution because he old woman decides to reward him by giving him both beautiful yet loyal and faithful. The main character being the knight is a dynamic character because he changes from the beginning to the end of the story. At first he was only interested in appearances and does not really care about the women and what they wanted and needed. But at the end of the tale, the knight realizes that all that time he was wrong. He finally gave himself up to his wife and had her decide whatever she pleased. This was the theme of the tale. To love each other in true harmony will only make two people even better lovers.

I really liked this story because it had a very good plot. It was also fun to read. The way the Wife of bath showed that what women wanted in men was total sovereignty by making the knight letting the old woman choose whether she wanted to be old and faithful or young and not faithful waas truly ingeneous. That was a really good way of putting what she had just said. It was also interesting and kind of funny to see how the knight would react to marrying the old woman and actually being with her on their wedding night. I would definitely recommend this to other readers because it was such a witty story.

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