The Canterbury Tales presents a picture of the society in which the authorlived. The pilgrims tales reflect the changing views held by society at thattime.
The pilgrims must tell their tales to and from the shrine. The criteria tochoose the winner are that the tale be instructive and amusing, “Tales of bestsentence and most solas (38). ” The tale that wins must teach a lesson and beentertaining at the same time. The tale of “The Wife of Bath” would have wonthe contest for these reasons. The tale is entertaining and there is a lesson tobe learned in the end. The tale told by the Wife of Bath is an entertainingtale.
The entertainment comes at the beginning of the tale. In Medieval Times,the stories that were told about knights usually involved the knight having anadventure or going on a quest. In the tale, the Knight is sent on a quest by thequeen to find the answer to her question of what women desire most. The Wife ofBath describes the Knights quest for the answer to this question. It appearsthat he has failed in his quest until he meets the lady in the woods.
She giveshim the answer that he is seeking. The listener is pleased by this and thelistener is even more pleased by the request that the old woman has for theKnight. This part of the tale would keep a listener listening to the speaker. The listener would want to know what happens next.
The lesson of the tale comesin the latter stages of the story. The trust that exists between a married manand woman is the lesson that is brought out in the tale. The Knight is veryupset about the appearance of the woman. She is not the person that he wants tospend the rest of his life with. The woman says that if she were beautiful, hewould have to worry about other men trying to tempt her away from her husband. But if she remains old and ugly, she will be faithful and he will never have toworry that she will cheat on him.
The old woman puts the choices to him in thisway. The Knight puts his trust in her. He wants her to do what will make herhappy. Trust is the lesson that comes forth in the second part of the tale.
TheTale of the Wife of Bath holds entertainment as well as educational value. TheKnights quest for the answer and the womans request of the Knight keep theaudience into the tale. The audience is also made aware of the lessons of thestory for married people. These characteristics would have helped the Wife ofBaths tale to win the contest.