The Canterbury Tales

8. Explain what the knight must do to play the foul, old woman for her answer in ?

In the tale of the women of bath

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Privately, the knight wedded the lothly lady the next day, and the two of them lay in bed. She realized his unhappiness, and confronted him about it. He criticized her for not only being old and ugly, but low-born. She scoffed at his snobbery as a definition and defended her poverty as irrelevant to God. She then gave him a choice, making him see both sides of the argument. Either he could have her as an old and ugly wife who would be entirely faithful to him; or he could have her as a young and fair wife, who would probably cuckold him.

The knight sighed sorely, and thought, but finally told his wife to choose herself whichever option would bring most honor to the two of them. “Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie” (In that case, I’ve got mastery over you) she said – and the knight agreed that she had. The lothly lady asked him to kiss her and “cast up the curtyn” (lift up the curtain) to look on her face – she had transformed into a young and beautiful woman. They lived happily ever after: and, the Wife concludes, let Christ grant all women submissive husbands who sexually satisfy their wives, and let Christ kill all men who will not be governed by their wives.