User:Jahsonic/AHE/The Middle Ages/The story of the wife of Bath: do you want me pretty and unfaithful or ugly and faithful?
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In the story of the unnamed wife of Bath, Chaucer shows himself at his most woman-friendly and points us men in the right direction on how we should treat women, although the male audience is sniggering in the background while doing so. Following the sound advice of the female narrator, men can best be accommodating and give to women "what they want most." The narrator knows the male species through and through. She's been married five times, which was very unusual at that time. On this trip she is actually looking for her sixth husband, who probably will be the travelling clerk.
The story begins with a knight who rapes a woman. As punishment he is forced to travel and is given one year an a day to learn "what women really want". The answer to this question is difficult to get by and on the very last day of his quest he asks a witch for help. She gives him the answer but -- quid pro quo -- he has to give something in return. Upon which the ugly witch tells the knight that what women really want is to be the masters of their men. In return for this precious information the witch demands that he marry her, our knight agrees half-heartedly. Once married, she gives him a choice: do you want me pretty and unfaithful, or ugly and faithful? The knight, having learned his lesson, lets her choose, and she, happy with the power she wields over her husband, decides to be both pretty and faithful. And they lived happily ever after.