"The Wife of Bath's Tale" and "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell" are very similar.
In "The Wife of Bath's Tale," the young warrior must determine for
Queen Guinevere "what is it that women most desire?" Also in "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell,"
King Arthur is faced with the same question which is posed to him by Sir Gromer Somer Joure. Both characters
have to search all over the country in order to find an answer for this
question which is an unsuccessful venture for them. They both acquire the correct answer from a hag who is
an outcast from their society.
In "The Wife of Bath's Tale," a young knight of King Arthur's court who is described as "a lusty bachelor" rapes a young maid
and is condemned to die. However, Queen Guenevere, along with other maidens, asks the king to give him one year and a day
to return with an answer to the question: "What thing it is that wommen most desiren?" (Chaucer, 136, ll,911).
The knight has now to go search and learn what it is that women desire most:
He seeketh every hous and every place
Wher as he hopeth for to finde grace,
To lerne what thing wommen love most.
But he ne coude arriven in no coost
Wher as he mighte finde in this matere
Two creatures according in fere. (Chaucer, 137, ll,925-930).
The knight never achieves this goal throughout all his search, but on his
way back to the court, he meets the woman with the answer:
No creature sawgh he that bar lif,
Save on the greene he sawgh sitting a wif
A fouler wight ther may no man devise. (Chaucer,138, ll, 1003-1005).
She is old and ugly. However, he tells her of his predicament, and she offers
him the answer under one condition: that he will marry her in return for
sparing his life. The knight returns to the court and tells the queen and all the court his answer that:
Wommen desire to have sovereinetee
As wel over hir housbonde as hir love,
And for to be en in maistrye him above. (Chaucer, 139, ll, 1044-1046).
However, in The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell, it is King Arthur who is in the trouble with Sir Gromer.
The king is in Ingleswood hunting and kills a deer. Sir Gromer appears and offers to kill him, since there is a
rivalry between them. King Arthur has given a piece of Sir Gromer's land to Sir Gawain which makes Sir Gromer upset with the king.
However as a , King Arthur has one year to return to the same place and tell Sir Gromer, "What it is that wommen desireth most." (Anonymous, )
Unlike The Wife of Bath's Tale, the young knight has one year and one day to return his answer, when King Arthur has only one year. Also another difference in both the stories
is that King Arthur allows Sir Gawain to help him search for the answer to his question, while the knight has to do it by himself in The Wife of Bath's Tale.
King Arthur and Sir Gawain both use two books and collect answers from everyone in all towns, villages and the country, but never receive two answers that match.
King Arthur returns to the forest, sad that he will be killed by Sir Gromer, but meets Dame Ragnell on his way:
Her face was red, nose snotid withalle,
Her mouithe wide, her teethe yallowe overe all,
Her teethe hing overe her lippes,
Her cheekis side as wemens hippes... (Anonymous, )
She is the ugliest creature that he has ever seen before. However, Dame Ragnell, like the hag in
"The Wife of Bath's Tale," offers an answer to the question to King Arthur, but under one condition that he will
allow her to marry Sir Gawain. King Arthur tells Sir Gawain that Dame Ragnell wants to marry him in order to save the king's life. Sir Gawain
gladly accepts this task and returns to meet Sir Gromer. The king tells Sir Gromer the answer to the question of, "what it is
that wommen desireth most":
Women desire sovereinte; for that is their liking;
And that is ther moste desire;
To have the rewlle of the manliest men,
And then ar they welle, thus they me did ken,
To rule men. (Anonymous)
In the end of the tales, both hags are transformed to beautiful princesses. They both ask their
men to choose which would they prefer: to be ugly or beautiful. Both the
knights allow them to choose. The knights give them "sovereignty" to rule over them. In the end, they
win both their beauty and the bride they always wanted. So, I believe every man should give his woman sovereignty in
all cases. This will make everyone live happily ever after. And that is what everyone dreams of: HAPPINESS, which
comes as direct result of granting sovereignty, or power in the relationship to the woman.