The Queen’s Lesson
In The Wife of Bath’s tale, from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a knight who has committed a terrible sin is let off by the King, per the Queen’s request, and given to her to deal out his punishment. Instead of doing the worst and executing him she poses him a question and gives him a year and a day to solve it. The question she sends him out to solve is what women want. It seems she gave him this question to solve knowing he was going to struggle and get many answers along the way. He was sent out to find the answer of what women want to teach him a lesson about women as a whole, and to see if he would learn anything along his way. Although it wasn’t something he seemed very anxious to do in order to be spared, he accepted it anyway.
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The Knight, after accepting his fate set out in search for the answer to what women want. On his quest he got many answers ranging from fairness to wealth. Of course given the range in answers he had to keep searching. This could have been a part of the Queen’s plan. She knew he was not going to be able to get a straight answer in a short amount of time which is why she gave him a year, but she also knew if he had a longer period of time he would not have tried so hard. She wanted him to have to continuously search over the given time period. He was on a search for a purposeful lesson in his life as well as the answer to save his life.
It appears the Queen was satisfied with the way it all turned out. She wanted him to learn and it is safe to say in the end he learned a lot. Although it took him nearly all his allotted time, the Knight found his answer by making a deal with an old Hag providing he would do her a favor later on. The Knight accepted these terms never suspecting the Hag would come out with what she did. When he returned to the Queen she asked if he had come across his answer and he replied yes. Although he had an answer the Queen may have still had some thought that what he came back with was not what she was looking for. When the Knight told the Queen the one thing women want is sovereignty she was surprised he was able to come back with such an answer, and knew he must have done something to get such an answer.
The Knight thought he had overcome the Queen’s challenge and thought he was free since he had done what was asked of him. What he didn’t count on was the Hag standing up to remind him of his promise. This is where the Queen regained her satisfaction of her choice to spare his life and send him on his search instead. He learned a lesson and now he had to continue to learn an even bigger lesson by marrying the Hag. Even though he begged for her to ask something else of him the Knight married the Hag. This is where he learned his biggest lesson. While married to the old Hag the Knight learned about being fair to her even though he was repulsed. After being so cruel to him and her being so kind still he learned to not care so much about how she looks and decided instead to love her for what she was.
By the Queen deciding to not kill the Knight and instead deciding to send him on the quest she did he learned more of a lesson than he ever would have learned. He spent a year of his life searching all around for one simple answer that he did eventually find. With the help of the Hag who then became the Knight’s wife, he was taught a lesson that the Queen was looking for him to learn. That is how in the end the Queen still got the outcome she was looking for. She wanted the Knight to learn a lesson and even though it took him longer than one would have hoped, in the end he did learn it.