The Canterbury Tales

The Wife of Bath's Tale : Based on the last two stanzas of the poem. Does this happy ending provide a satisfying conclusion, or is it disturbing? Explain your answer while citing details from the text

And when indeed the knight had looked to see, Lo, she was young and lovely, rich in charms. In ecstasy he caught her in his arms, His heart went bathing in a bath of blisses And melted in a hundred thousand kisses, And she responded in the fullest measure With all that could delight or give him pleasure.
So they lived ever after to the end In perfect bliss; and may Christ Jesus send Us husbands meek and young and fresh in bed, And grace to overbid them when we wed. And—Jesu hear my prayer!—cut short the lives Of those who won’t be governed by their wives; And all old, angry niggards of their pence, God send them soon a very pestilence!

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I'm not sure that "happy" or "sad" especially fits the narrative. Perhaps. For all the Wife decries the clerical tradition and the clerks who leave out the good deeds of woman, she herself as a text is another example of a lecherous, lying, manipulative woman. She falls into the anti-feminist tradition she represents. This is even before you mention that the Wife is being written, at the very least ventriloquised, by Geoffrey Chaucer, a clerk and a man. Is this Chaucer’s opinion of proto-feminism and a disavowal of the anti-feminist tradition? Or is Chaucer endorsing the anti-feminist tradition by giving it a mouthpiece which, in arguing against it, demonstrates all of its stereotypical arguments as fact?

Who painted the lion? Whose voice is the Wife’s? Is she worthy of – as she does – speaking for women everywhere?

These are all huge, open, fascinating questions that demonstrate why the tale itself is so complex, and interesting to interpret. The key fact not to forget is that you can’t have a Wife without a Husband. Whether married to Chaucer, whether Chaucer in drag, or whether a feminist persona all of her own, it’s important to view the apparently proto-feminist Wife of Bath from a point of view which understands her strong links to the men in her fictional – and literary – lives.