The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The queen's role in "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is brief but meaningful. From what we do see of her, we're impressed. After she gains control of the knight's case, she serves justice with composure and intelligence, devising a punishment that's designed to get him to listen to women's desires. And she's no pushover, either, reminding the knight that, despite her jurisdiction over his case, "Thou standest yet […] in swich array / That of thy lyf yet hastow no suretee" (908-909). She seems very concerned to portray herself as a force for a justice which, though different than the king's, is no less forceful.
Just as the knight is probably a symbol of all men, the queen may represent womankind. With her ladies, she stands in judgment over the man who has assaulted one of their own, administering a type of justice meant not just to punish, but to teach and to improve the position of women more generally. With her, then, the tale explores the kind of justice women might choose to administer were they the ones wielding judgment.