The Wife of Bath’s Response to the Clerk’s Tale

As the Clerk finished his tale, the Wife of Bath rode along in silent disgust. After a few minutes of complete silence, Harry Bailly asked, “So, what did everyone think of the tale?”

The Wife of Bath seized her chance, dominating the conversation. “What’s with the double standard?” she asked. “Men don’t have to listen to their wives and be faithful, but women have to obey their husband’s every word? How outrageous!”

The Friar spoke up in response, “Well, in the Bible, wives are expected to be submissive, and God rewards them for it.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s fair,” the Wife of Bath countered, “If I was Griselda, I would have left him. Taking my children away from me just to test my obedience? No thank you. A promise is a promise. No one should doubt promises like he did.”

“Well,” Harry Bailly interjected to try and keep the peace, “Some people aren’t very trusting by nature. You can’t change who they are.”

The company rode in silence again, giving the Wife of Bath time to think. “Women wouldn’t be so cruel though,” she said. “If we questioned someone’s fidelity or faithfulness, we would use other ways to find out.”

The Clerk responded in his own defense, “It’s just a story; it didn’t actually happen. Are we not allowed to speak of ideals here?”

The Wife of Bath snapped at him, “Well, you, sir, are delusional because your version of ideal does not exist. And it never will. No one is perfect.”

And with that, she galloped ahead of the rest of the pilgrims. She needed to be alone so that she could calm down. She didn’t understand how the others just accepted this double standard. Granted, most of them were men, but why should that matter? She couldn’t be the only one who felt this way. She just wondered if anyone else did.

Squire’s Response to the Wife of Bath’s Tale

The young squire in the company of the pilgrimage urged his mount into a gallop so that he could ride alongside his father, the knight. He had some questions about the truth of the Wife of Bath’s tale, but he did not want anyone to hear.

“Father,” he asked, “what did the wife mean by her tale?”

“It is a lesson for us as knights on the code of chivalry.”

“But father, what exactly is chivalry?”

“Well, my son, it seems you are old enough to understand now. Chivalry is not just a code of conduct that we as knights live by. It is a way of life. It started out simply enough. Kings would grant plots of land to knights for their services. But with great power and control came great responsibility; not only for the land, but for those who worked it.

In the beginning, those in positions of power and control in the estates understood the various responsibilities their job entailed. However, as these estates passed down through the generations, the tasks of an estate faded into distant memory. Those that were in charge began to feel entitled to anything they wanted. The Wife used her knight as an example of one of these men; in other words, how we shouldn’t act.”

“Well then why did the queen and her ladies not want to see him punished? He violated the code,” the Squire asked.

“It is hard to say; perhaps they had pity for him,” his father replied.

The rest of the day’s journey passed in silence between the father and son. The Squire had a lot to contemplate about what it meant to be a knight. He made his own vow never to disrespect any woman, especially if she was his own. From this moment on, he would strive to be like his father. He wanted to be the best squire and knight he could be.

Background

This fall, I took an English Class on Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The class was hard – not to mention a total bore sometimes – but I survived. The following posts in this category are two assignments I actually enjoyed. We had to write a response to one of the tales – we could continue the tale, write what we thought of the tale, etc. For both of mine, I chose to respond from another pilgrims’ point of view.