The Wife of Bath

The Wife of Bath's Tale

1. What does the Wife of Bath think of marriage?
She thinks it is a misery and a woe.
2. How many husbands has the Wife of Bath had?
She has had five husbands.
3. The Wife of Bath talks about Solomon, Abraham, Jacob, and others from the Bible. What is
her point?
Lots of Christians had several wives. She is defending her five marriages by proclaiming
examples of how others in good stead with the church have had many marriages.
4. On what commandment does the Wife of Bath like to dwell?
She dwells on the one that husbands should love their wives.
5. What is the Wife of Bath's complaint about husbands?
She had many complaints which basically involve husbands' complaints about their wives and
how their complaints are unfounded or the husbands' own fault. For instance, she says if
husbands would "try out" their wives before marriage, they wouldn't think the wives had hidden
their "vices." Husbands, she says, don't trust their wives; they have to spy on them all the time
for fear of infidelity. Husbands "hide the keys of coffer doors" and seem to forget that their
valuables are common property between man and wife. She says husbands think women
contrive ways to make their husbands miserable.
6. "No empty-handed man can lure a bird," said the Wife of Bath. Explain what she meant.
Her husband had to do something nice for her or bring her something before she would be nice
to him or let him sleep with her.
7. The Wife of Bath says she was her fourth husband's purgatory. Explain.
She knows she was hateful to him and that his life was miserable because of her.
8. The Wife's fifth husband beat her. Why did she stay with him?
She said of all her husbands, she loved him most of all.
9. What lies did the Wife of Bath tell Johnny?
She told him that she dreamed the night away thinking of him, and that as she lay there he tried
to kill her. We get the impression that she probably told other lies to try to get Johnny's
10. What book did Johnny like to read?
It was a book with a collection of stories about hateful wives.
11. What was the result of the fight between the Wife of Bath and her fifth husband?
She was partially deaf, but they lived happily ever after.
12. Why did the Friar promise to tell a tale poking fun at a Summoner?
After the Wife of Bath's prologue, the Summoner insulted the Friar.
13. What did the knight do to warrant the punishment of beheading?
He raped a young maiden.
14. Who saved the knight, and under what condition was he let go?
The Queen saved him. He was let go under the condition that he would come back in one year
to tell her what one thing women wanted above all else.
15. What deal did he make on his way home after the year was almost ended?
He met an old woman who told him the answer to the Queen's question under the condition that
he would grant her next request if it would be in his power to do so.

16. What was the answer to the Queen's question?
The knight told the Queen that all women want to be masters of their husbands and lovers.
17. What did the woman ask of the knight in return for saving his life?
She asked him to marry her.

18. The knight kept his work and married her, but he was miserable. What options did the old
woman give him?
He could have her old and faithful or young and perhaps not so faithful.
19. What did the knight choose?
He left the decision up to the old woman.
20. Why did the old woman promise him both beauty and fidelity?
By giving her the choice, he allowed her mastery over him, her husband