Who: ONLY periods 1, 2 & 3
Set-up: Each of you has now read “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, a story within a story within a story within a story that attempts to disect very complex gender politics (that are as relevant today as they were in the Middle Ages when Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales).
Challenge: Was the knight punished ‘fairly’ for his ‘crime’?
Note: This is NOT as simple as you might think from a plot-level. Anyone who chooses this option should consider the following:
- What was the actual crime?
- What does it mean that women were ‘given’ the right to ‘punish’ him?
- Was he truly ‘punished’?
- What was the lesson the wife was trying to teach him?
- Did the knight truly ‘learn’?
- Did the knight truly ‘love’ his wife?
- What lesson is the Wife of Bath suggesting by the wife’s magical change at the end of the story?
- What are we — as the reader — supposed to assume with Chaucer (male author) and the Wife of Bath (female character) co-constructing this story to have the old woman punish the knight in this unique manner?
- Should we be satisfied by what Chaucer is suggesting?
- Should we be satisfied by the Wife of Bath’s perspective and her choice in the story/outcome?
- Should we be satisfied by the wife’s punishment (and her eventual reward)?
- Should we be satisfied by the knight’s punishment (and his eventual reward)?
- What does all of this say about ‘us’ as members of society where gender issues — like this — continue to play out?
- Who’s ‘right’ (or morally ‘just’) in this story?
- How should women ‘behave’ in society?
- What does this say about how ‘men’ should behave?
- Does this story have more/less power because a woman (written by a male) told the story?
Length: 7+ sentences