The Wife of Bath
The Wife of Bath is the tale of an independent and headstrong woman. She strongly believes in the worth of every woman and that women should be dominant in their marriages. The Wife of Bath also directly speaks against strict religious claims for chastity and monogamy, using Biblical examples. These examples include Solomon to show that the Bible does not openly condemn all expressions of sexuality, even outside of marriage.
The major characters of the Tale of the Wife of Bath are the old crone and Jankin (one of King Arthur's knights). Her Tale begins with a knight, Jankin, who when riding home one day found a maiden walking alone and raped her. This crime usually held the penalty of death, but the queen intervened and begged her husband to spare the knight. She told the knight that she would grant his life if he could answer the question "what do women most desire?" She gave him one year to find the answer. The knight went on his journey and was not successful in finding his answer. When he reached the end of the twelve months before he must meet his fate, he found an old woman and asked her the question. She agreed to give the answer and assured him that it was right, but would only tell him the answer if he would marry her. She told him that women desire to have the sovereignty and to rule over their husbands. The knight was pardoned when he gave the queen his answer but he was bound by his promise to the old woman. The old woman realized his unhappiness with their marriage and gave him a choice. He can either have her as a wife old and ugly, but humble and devoted, or young and fair, but independent. He chooses to give her independence. When he kisses her, she transforms into a young and beautiful woman. They lived happily together and he was devoted to her, while she was independent.
The tale of the Wife of Bath has a fairy-tale structure. This structure is prevalent through the transformation of the old crone. The fairy-tale structure also exists when he kisses the old woman to turn her young. This Tale also has fable qualities because of the moral at the end of the Tale. The Wife of Bath ends the Tale with its moral: let Christ grant all women submissive husbands who sexually satisfy their wives. This tale shows the old crone's newfound beauty as a result of her...