Teaching ‘Wife of Bath’ to 20 Boys and 5 Girls; or to 20 Girls and 5 Boys

The Wife of Bath’s Tale is one of the most famous and frequently taught of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The compounded irony is laid out thus: A man is telling a story of a feminist woman telling the story of a knightly man who forces himself upon a woman, who for his crime is sentenced by the queen (who was deferred to by the king) to spend a year searching for the answer to the question of what women want, at the end of which he is given the answer by an old woman who makes him swear to fulfill her next request, thereby saving his life, and yet cursing himself to honor her request to marry and bed her, so that he is tormented until she gives him the choice of either having her be beautiful and unfaithful or old, ugly and faithful, a choice which he skirts by letting her decide, thus learning his lesson by deferring to his wife and earning a woman both beautiful and faithful. The moral, says the Wife of Bath, is for God to bless all women with hot sexy men who will let their wives do what they want. At least in this man Chaucer’s story.
Continue reading