Seniors – Wife of Bath weekend homework

Seniors,

Now that we know all about the Wife of Bath’s views on marriage, sex and social roles in the 1300s, it’s time to read the Wife of Bath’s tale. (Here’s a link if you don’t have your book.) I have two questions for you. Post your answers in the comments.

  1. Does this story have a happy ending? (Yes, this question is intentionally vague.)
  2. Is this a feminist story?

This is not a simple question. For example, is this a happy ending for the 1300s but not for today? Or vice versa? As always, use evidence from the text.

If you’re looking for more information, here’s what the introduction of the books says about Chaucer’s own ideas about love and marriage:

[In 1367] it was not in fashion to write poems to one’s wife. It could even be debated whether love could ever have a place in marriage; the typical situation in which a ‘courtly lover’ found himself was to be plunged in a secret, an illicit, and even adulterous passion for some seemingly unattainable and pedestalized lady. Before his mistress a lover was prostrate, wounded to death by her beauty, killed by her disdain, obliged to an illimitable constancy, marked out for her dangerous service. A smile from her was in theory a gracious reward for twenty years of painful adoration. All Chaucer’s heroes regard love when it comes upon them as the most beautiful of absolute disasters, an agony as much desired as bemoaned, ever to be pursued, never to be destroyed.

This was not in theory the attitude of a husband to his wife. It was for a husband to command, for a wife to obey…Chaucer thought that love and marriage were perhaps compatible after all, provided that the lover remained his wife’s ‘servant’ after marriage, in private at least. If we read the Wife of Bath’s Prologue we shall see that she thought little of wives that did not master their husbands. (12)

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43 thoughts on “Seniors – Wife of Bath weekend homework

  1. Having given what she wanted for the abuse and use of her instruments do not seem like a happy ending. Despite the time being the 1300s and Allison getting what most other women would not get, I do not think that giving a dog a bone and beating it is a “happy ending” per se, a cruel ending. This is not a happy ending for the 1300s or today because similar to what Mr.Miyagi said in the Karate Kid, “Never put passion before principle, because if you win, you still lose.” Allison has had previous husbands who beat her and she clearly expressed her dislike for them through parts 12 and 13.In this case, the husband gave her control, which is what she was seeking all along, thus making her stay. It is as if she is giving up her dignity for pride for women’s rights which in my opinion, is not the correct way to go about solving the problem.
    This story is an example of feminism because Chaucer was known for his allegories and using humor to make people see the mistakes of society. The fact that he wrote a story based off of a woman searching for a man to give her some equality or control, I think that it is very clear that he was trying to advocate for women’s rights. Feminism is, “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” (google) and based on Chaucer’s views on marriage and love from the introduction of the book, there is a strong connection between what he was trying to portray and what he was trying to get across.

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    • Good writing, Johnny, but did you think that the Wife of Bath’s tale — not prologue — was feminist? (Also, don’t cite “google” – make sure you’re citing the website the definition came from. It probably came from an online dictionary.)

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  2. 1. The story does not have a happy ending for the modern world, because even though they may be happy together, their marriage is sanctioned by the church, which uses this union to make them subordinate to the rule of Catholicism. Besides, even if the hag forced the knight to marry her, it is unclear whether she wanted to do that out of her own accord or if she was forced to by the Church itself, (which sounds like the most logical answer). I think that even if the two were never really married, that they would find things would be the same, since they think women should have their own freedom as men want, but not to the point when the latter or the former is exploited by their attributes.
    2. This is a feminist story because sexism still exists in our society when women are used in advertisements that show off how beautiful they are and not how smart or humourous or talented they truly are. The catholic church sanctioned that marriage is between a man and a woman and the man is able to do what he wants, but women have no control over their marriage and cannot do anything to make sure their relationship is entirely equal. Cauncer does think that love and marriage go hand in hand, and this is an ideal that is still struggling today because some men want to objectify their wives while others think that marriage oppresses women and that it should not exist, (although they can be together, if they want to).

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  3. 1.I think what she did was wrong but if it made her happy then she should do what makes her happy also when what she thinks what her man happy let he be happy with that i think it was a happy and a bad ending because she thought alot of that makes her happy.
    2.this was not feminist because it was all what she wanted not what her man wanted she did what she wants to do with him.

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    • Make sure you’re putting your name in the name/comment so I know who this is! Also, keep in mind that “feminist” would mean the woman is in control or at least has equal authority/sovereignty over/with the man. So if this is all about what she wanted then wouldn’t this be feminist?

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  4. 1.) In today’s modern world I do not think that the story has a happy ending, this is because the now married knight and hag were not brought together by love and in marriage that is the object; to love each other. In the story the couple seems to be happy, but this is because they both wanted superficial things.The knight wanted the hag to be beautiful and the hag wanted to control her husband (the knight and his possessions. The tone in the book is very happy at the end using lots of words like bliss, melted, love, kisses, ever after and so on. Therefore implying that they were happy.

    2.) It is really hard to say whether this a feminist story or not. I think it involves some aspects of feminism but twisted, like Allison’s allusions. At the end of the tale it says ” … and may Christ Jesus send/ Us husbands meek and young and fresh in bed,/ … And – Jesus hear my prayer! -cut short the lives/ Of those who wont be governed by their wives;/ And all old, angry niggards of their pence,/ God send them soon to a very pestilence, ” (Chaucer 292). This ending gave me the feeling that Chaucer intended this to be seen as feminist, and back then in the 1300’s I’m sure it was. However now a days I think this story shows more a radical feminist side, because the hag and Allison want complete control over their husbands instead. In Allison’s prologue I’m sure she felt as though she was a strong feminist, but really she was radical and wanted complete domination over men, which she got sometimes. If there was a cause in the 1300’s that resembles feminism now I think it gave women the idea that they should be in control instead of men. there was just power as it was a kingdom and a church. What would have made this story feminist in my eyes is if Allison and the hag didn’t look for control or power of their men but more of a equal partnership.

    -Lilly Rae 🙂

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  5. 1.The story does not have a happy ending because of the fact that there marriage is based on lies, her husband blinded by jealousy.
    2. This is feminism because man is able to do whatever he wants but women have no control over their there lives, they cant do whatever they want. The man controls marriage.

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    • Good thoughts on that first question, Ivan, but make sure you’re using quotes from the book to back up your answers. Also, make sure you understand what feminism is, or at least be able to explain what you mean by feminism is when the man can do whatever he wants but women can’t.

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  6. Back in 1300s, women didn’t have any rights and it wasn’t brought out to both of their expectations. Instead she expresses herself and satisfaction, what she wants in her life and what she can have. That women can have as much as men. Which wasn’t set to be a happy ending, they don’t really meet up to both of their standards at all.
    It seems like it can be a feminist story because she exposes herself as someone who can do as great as men, marriage women didn’t have the privilege to do anything without their husband’s consent, but she rebelled against the concept of marriage from Catholic churches and went with what she desired to do instead.

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  7. ^ example of someone who has their priorities straight! Anyway…
    .
    I’d say this is a happy ending in both times. Despite the knight’s initial despond and uncertainty, his decision to have his wife make the decision not only was a celebration of women’s control of their fate, but also was synonymous to the answer of the knights overall quest to “what is it that a woman most desires?” which through the hag he learned it was matriarchy. The knight chose matrimonial honor and virtue over youth and beauty, and I the end “they lived, till their lives’ very end, in perfect joy.” (Chaucer 1257). They were truly happy, despite the grounds of the structure of their relationship, their happiness indicated the success of their story.

    This is not a feminist story. The story supports virtue over beauty but also supports patriarchy and encourages the subservient role a woman played in a relationship to a man at that time. She states that to compensate for her ugliness she would “a true and humble wife, One never to displease you” (Chaucer 1220). And it is further narrated that upon their joyful marriage “she obeyed in each and every way, whatever was his pleasure or his play” (Chaucer 1255). She was happy, however it serves to contradict its original purpose of women intrinsicity and empowerment of modern day feminism. The story’s antiquated view on feminism was a celebration of that era’s gender norms that was an inadvertent aversion to modern feminist views.

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    • Great response, Lucas, especially the response to question #2. I wonder why a woman with strong feminist values (the Wife of Bath, in her prologue) would tell a story with such a veiled “feminist” ending. As for question one, “matriarchy” is certainly a good answer but the word has a very specific meaning (as in women in control of government). “Sovereignty” might be a better option – similar idea, but more broad, and I think the Wife of Bath even mentions the word in her prologue.

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  8. 1. Even though the ending may seem a little twisted, i think it is a happy ending due to the fact that it doesnt matter what we think, if the characters are happy thats what i would define a happy ending, even if it was set up by the church that was a normal thing back then. even in some cultures today that is a normal thing, so if you grow up in that environment its not going to be much of a shock.
    2.feminism is strong with the force in this story, back then women were basically treated like cattle, they were fighting for the right to carry them selfs freely, but especially the right for sexual freedom which was condemned in that time period.

    ^example of someone who wont say that to my face.

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    • Good comments, Izayah. Make sure to cite the text to back up your opinions, – especially the idea that both characters are “happy” in the sense that we would see happiness in a story where a woman says she wants sovereignty but then capitulates to what the man wants in a woman.

      Any flames in comments must be written in Chaucerian/Middle English. This rule will apply to all books going forward, so you’d better brush up on your Shakespearean insults for when we start Macbeth.

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  9. I believe that the ending is both good and bad. You see it is good because now the man can see that Gersielda is the “right” girl for him since she passed his trials. Back in the day in their time, those type of trails and abuse was okay. Looking at it now in modern times we see this as a terrible thing, but back then it was normal. The Knight pulled so many stunts that was cruel. Thinking about it now, it does not matter how things were back then. What we need to focus is the now, when understanding this story. The ending is terrible, yeah sure she ended up with the guy who she surprisingly still loved but for what cause. She did not deserve all this abuse it is way too much for anyone. It is kind of twisted in a way, one would think that how they ended up together makes the story “cute”. The Knight had no chill. And the fact how she is still in love with the guy, reflects how love is blind. This was a terrible ending.

    I do think that in some circumstances it can be a feminist story; Some feminist in modern time and use this story to see how cruel women was treated. How the men (Knight) did so many terrible things to the woman but she still stayed with him because it was a custom. The women went through so much pain and suffering and yet she was still the “Lucky one” to be with the Knight. It is all matter of opinion honestly but this is a way that this story can be a feminist story However it was not made for it to be one.

    LETS GO PATS!!!

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  10. 1. This story does not have a happy ending in the modern world because of all the abuse and hardship that she had to go through. The wife had to give up so much of her own happiness because she was too prideful with who she was. Also, both characters did not really put their all into loving each other, more like loving the things they can change about the other. The wife wants to be respected and treated well off in the end, which she does achieve eventually, but the outcome is not fully balanced. It is a happy ending in the story because both characters are not very worried. They seem to be content with the role that they landed. The wife had been given all the things that were almost foreign to her because of where she stood in society and so she has become lured to her last husband with the freedom that was insured to her. One quote from the end of the tale that shows this is, “So they lived ever after to the end in perfect bliss;” (Chaucer 310).
    2. This story does portray feminism. Chaucer is an advocating that women should stand up for themselves and create a deeper image. In this story and what we talked about in class, the women are very demanding and it reverses the roles of men and women. For example, in one part of the story talked about during our discussion, the woman is saying that if men can have multiple wives, then women should be able to do the same thing without being judged. This shows that they want to have the same privileges.

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  11. I think this is happy ending for both 1300s and today because in the 1300s women were always treated awfully by men. In this she was able to give a taste of their own medicine and tricking them to do things that she wanted without letting him know that. As for today its also a happy ending because he showed her that he could not love the person she was inside, he need her to be young and beautiful for him to love her. So she made herself young and beautiful and he loved her but she would never love him she would use him for his instruments. So know she gets to be young and beautiful and have sex, I think that does not seem too bad for people today.
    This is not a feminist story because it is not a story about fairly making people equal and getting to make the same choices or being punished or rewarded no matter who they are. This story is about women getting back at men and giving them their own punishment that always put on women. Feminism is not about getting back at men for awful things they have done.

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    • “Feminism is not about getting back at men for awful things they have done” – great quote, Jyselle. So it can be a happy ending even if they’re not really “in love,” so long as the woman is getting what she wants out of the deal? Remember to use quotes from the text.

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  12. I think this book doesn’t have a good ending, but what she did to the poor guy or intended to do wasn’t right. But I feel if it was the opposite around that the guy wanted to control his wife then it would be fine because it was the 1300’s and that’s how life was back then. But how she want’s to control her husband then that’s not acceptable or right. I’m having mixed feeling of if I think this is a happy ending or not. I’m happy that this story shows feminism that a women want’s to control and that her husband is fine with it. Back then a husband would feel angry if the woman tried to take control but the knight is fine with it. But at the end they were both happy the knight didn’t get killed, got married to the not very pretty woman “To have me old and ugly till I die, But still a loyal, true, and humble wife.” (Chaucer 291) , the woman found a husband, tries to control him but he’s fine with it. Chaucer talks a lot about this in page 291.
    Is this story feminist is that even a question. Yes it is feminist, this story shows a lot of woman trying to do things that mostly you would see men do back in 1300’s or even now, which is to control a household or your wife, and picking what best for the whole household. In this tale the Knight doesn’t care all he says is “The choice is your own” (Chaucer 291). He even trusted her didn’t really cared what she did as long as she was happy and it was a right choice he was okay with it. That’s something courage for a guy to do and a woman to not care and take control and still love a man and them have there 50/50 in there relationship.

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  13. After reading The Wife of Bath’s Tale I think that the story can go either according to their happiness. I say this because at the end of the story King Arthur got married to the old hag, but he did not really love her since she was not young. Then when he got married to the old hag, the old hag saw him unhappy and asked him why he felt this way. He responded with she is an ugly, poor lady, and she gave him a choice that if he would rather have her ugly, but loyal/truthful or young/beautiful, but unfaithful and dishonest. He told her to pick what is best and the correct thing, and by giving her what she wanted, she rewarded him with both young and faithful wife which was stated in line 1232 -1234 “You choose which one would give the fullest pleasure/And honor to you, and to me as well,” (Chaucer). This demonstrates that they have a happy ending because they both got what they wanted, but if you think it in a different way, you may see it as I’ll just follow what ever the other person says just to make them happy, while the other person isn’t which in this case i think is old hag. I say this because she probably just chose that to please him, but she probably just wished he loved her for who she was in the inside not the outside and for sex. This connects back to the beginning because when king Arthur raped the maiden and was almost killed if he did not answer what do women desire. The old hag gave him the answer to what all women desire which was to be in charge of their husbands or lovers, which is what King Arthur learned from his educational journey to find the answer and how he changed for the better.
    According to this story, I don’t think is a feminist story., but at the same time there were some situations that it was. I say this because in this situation what women desired the most was to be in charge of their husband or lover. This demonstrates that women wanted all power which is not equality between men and women. At this time period, changes were occurring and men were losing their power slowly which is what I was getting from the story. Men are listening more to women other then themselves all the time, but the men and women are switching positions. I say this because the women want to be in control and not the men, trying to show the men how it felt all this time. At the same time, the women were obedient to their husbands and still were respecting them in a way when the old hag gave king Arthur what he wanted and was obedient to him after as well. I don’t think the man was over powering the women, but women wasn’t over powering the man in that situation. I was feminist, but at the same time it wasn’t in a way.

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  14. 1. I have mixed emotions about the ending. It also depends on what the person believes. A woman’s instrument is in charged by their own, for their own desires or conservation. Being a virgin is not bad and using your instrument is not bad either. This seemed like an all-around paradox, because it’s not helped yet it is not advertised either. Not as much back then, as it is now anyways. The knight wanted to continuously be in charge, but little did he know she used him for superficial materialistic things. It was the deal she gave out; you can have her body as long as you can pay the price. And if that made her happy then so be it, but it was not a happy ending because she was selfish and could’ve been insecure. But back then, who would’ve known that.
    2. It all depends on what your definition of feminism is. Many people say feminism is the equality of rights for the sexes. And if that is what it is, since society views it in different ways, then I say this is not feminism. There was no equality, more like messed up values in the view of men and women that it kind of became a competition.

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    • Karen, the feminism thing is tricky here. I like how you phrased this as “messed up values.” In some ways, she’s totally in control of the knight (and remember that his life will be determined by a woman) but in the end she capitulates to what he wants in a wife. So yeah, maybe it’s not feminism but just “messed up values.”

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  15. 1. I believe that in the perspective of the characters or author that it was a happy ending based on the tone and language used to describe what they’ve done. By default if the characters are happy then it had a happy ending.
    2. Any story involving dominant/positive female role I would consider a feminist story. Feminism advocates for equality and strength for women. Positivity is opinionated so in my personal opinion, this story was a non-feminist story. This depicts the woman in negative roles in terms of getting revenge at men for her poorly treated relationships. Revenge is not a positive theme and revenge is not equality.

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    • 1. There were two things wanted throughout the story. The “old hag” wanted possession over the knight and have him as a husband, where they would both live together happily till the end. The knight wanted someone “beautiful” as his wife but instead got tricked by the “old hag” into being her husband. When faced with the question of what he wanted the fate of his wife he replied with her having the choice ‘”You’ve given me,” she said, “the mastery? – The choice is mine and all’s at my behest?” – “Yes, surely, wife,” said he, “I think it best.” ‘ (Lines 1236-1239). This means that the knight cares for her in some sorta way where she could be happy due to the fact that she has a choice on what her life is going to be like. Then the “old hag” turned into a someone who the knight found attracted too and was happy. So in the end the women gets to keep his man and be pretty while the knight has a beautiful wife. Back in the 1300s that was a happy ending, nowadays that would not be because of how entitled people feel about themselves and the things that they deserve.
      2. I would not think it is a feminist story even though both genders got what they wanted. She only got her looks because of her husband allowing her too which is the big reason of why it is not a feminist story. And the fact that the women is only loved due to her looks at the end. Overall there was a lot of manipulation between the husband and the wife, whether that was trickery, shallowness, deceit, and lust.

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  16. 1. I think that this had a good ending for the 1300’s because though she did have to go through abuse and hardship that was normal back then, also all that hardship and abuse is what got her to the place she’s at, at the end of the story which is her happiness.As for the knight though he did not love her because she wasn’t young, he still realize the she was the right one for him because she gave him the choice of faithfulness or beauty,and he said “to pick what is best and the correct thing” giving the choice to her and he got the reward of both.They both ended up being happy with there abnormal circumstances of power for that time period in the relationship. Now whether or not this is a happy ending for current times that is based on every persons personal opinion, some people like to have relationship that test each others worthiness for one another, while other like equality.

    2. This story isn’t feminist because this story isn’t advocating for equality but instead for the role of man and women to be switched around. Though it may have the similar concept of women standing up for themselves at points, it still pushes pass the boundary of equality and into only women having the power, which isn’t feminist.

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  17. I think this story does have a happy ending despite the fighting and hardships, in both the 1300s and now. In the 1300s like most people have said, it was common for the men to hold the power and the women to just obey. So when given any type of control or power to make a decision, it resulted in a happy ending. By the end where the author says, ‘”You’ve given me,” she said, “the mastery? – The choice is mine and all’s at my behest?” – “Yes, surely, wife,” said he, “I think it best.” ‘ (Lines 1236-1239) it is a happy ending for the woman because she is allowed to make a decision, the knight is also happy because he seems to like her enough to give her the power of, “one of these two: that I Be old and ugly till the day I die,
    And be to you a true and humble wife,
    One never to displease you all your life;
    Or if you’d rather, have me young and fair,
    And take your chance on those who will repair (1219-1224)”
    I don’t think this is a feminist story because if it was a feminist story the poem would be more of getting the power to woman and maintaining it. But at the end of this, the woman says she would still obey the knight to whatever and was only happy because she knew she had some sort of power. “A thousand kisses he began to kiss,
    And she obeyed in each and every way, 1255
    Whatever was his pleasure or his play.
    And so they lived, till their lives’ very end,
    In perfect joy.” Feminists would not agree with these lines where it is showing the woman giving in and obeying the man in each and every way what his pleasure was. The equality of men and women are shown a little when the knight gives the option of choosing what is right for him but at the same time, she goes back to being her role which back in the 1300s is to just simply obey men.

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    • “She goes back to being her role which back in the 1300s is to just simply obey men.” That’s the problem here, right? Just like the WoB herself, who stays with her fifth husband who beats her, the witch goes back to giving the man what he wants after she held all the power over him.

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  18. It is very difficult to call this a happy ending because at some point she gets what she’s been looking for all this time but is being beaten to achieve this goal. my way of thinking is this isn’t it the same thing for african american rights we call that a happy ending but there whole journey they were beaten abused and slaughtered just to reach one goal they put all pride aside to reach one goal through the pain and struggle. we see it as one of the biggest accomplishments so it could be argues that this is a happy ending even though she is beaten and has lost her pride she does get at one point the control she desires and craves she technically peacefully went about her life trying to accomplish something through the pain and struggle so wouldn’t it be the same thing as the civil rights ? in personal opinion its a happy ending because the hag got what she wanted and so did the knight and in the modern world getting what you want means your happy your living ” the life ” . you live however you get to where you want to be doing whatever you want the way you want to so maybe in our perspective theres no happy ending but in hers its the perfect one.

    reading the passage just immediately gives me a feminist vibe just the way that shes talking about women she does not put them underneath men she recognizes the place where women are in society and she doesnt agree with it she thinks women should be more empowered and treated with the same respect men treat each other because there just as important not just for the use of sex and tending a house plus children when i read this i see a women talking about her life looking for more power as a women but i think her life is just an example of how most women feel maybe not all women are as severe when it comes to having sexual relations all the time and making the point of having it as much as they want and remarrying as much as they want either i think she just reflects what most women want and thats to find a man that will let her lead instead of shutting her out because of her sex.

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  19. Based on the Wife of Baths Tale I believed that she did get a happy ending. Even though she surely didn’t get a happy process, in the end she got what all women apparently desired back in the 1300’s, control. In the tale when she asked her husband if he wanted her to be young and unfaithful or old and good, he gave her the choice to choose herself and he passed the test. So his wife was young and faithful and they had a happy marriage. She went through a lot of hardships to finally come to the conclusion that not only do women want their freedom, they want to play the role of husband and make choicess for both of them. This message can be carried out through-out the society, be modified and added to. So this wasn’t only a happy ending for the WoB, but women in general.

    I honestly don’t think this is a feminist story at all because feminism means to advocate for women’s right to be equal to men but the tale is about women having more rights than men. This would have been more of a femisnm story if they decided on whether to be young or old together. If they made pro’s and con’s list together that would be femisnm. Back in the 1300’s it would have been hard to find equality because people were so stubborn on whether it should be a man’s world or a women’s world that they didn’t stop to make any other choices.

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  20. One last one please Mr. Shulkin. I love you so much. Thank you so much. XOXOXOXOXOX
    Like my Great classmate Vinh once taught me,

    RESERVED 9:59

    Here is a riddle for a smart man like yourself to solve as you wait for my last response.

    Two police offers were investigating a mysterious death. When they arrived at the scene of the crime they found a room with no windows and the dead man who seemed to have hung himself by a rope from the ceiling. There was no chair or table that the man may have jumped off. The only clue was a puddle of water on the floor. How did the man manage to hang himself?

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  21. Yes I do believe this story has an happy ending, both the knight and the old women as lines 1256 stated “And so they lived, till their lives’ very end, In perfect joy”. On the end of the knights journey from saving his life he stumbled upon the old lady, which was meant to be because she ends up saving his life. The lady allows the knight to decide whether “I be old and ugly till the day I die, And be to you a true and humble women” – line 1220, but the knights said that she shall decide what’s best for her. In the end she gets to become both which is a win win. Common lets be honest a beautiful, loyal, and humble women is what us men need.
    I wouldn’t say this story is a feminist story because the lady is playing a well carried role that she’s has some control over the knight but also lets him decides what he wants in her as a wife. This story doesn’t really portray feminism but rather who’s alpha in the relationship. -Jerry Nguyen

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