Here is a succinct summary of the Wife of Bath's Tale
The Knight dishonors a Lady
What do women want most?
Clearly I have no idea.
The Search for the One Answer
To be thought innocent & pure even when we're not!
The story begins in a time where King Arthur sits on the throne. A Knight is walking through the woods when he comes upon a young, beautiful woman. He takes advantage of her.
The Old Woman
You must swear to do what I next ask of you.
He is sentenced to die at first. But, Queen Guinevere begs for mercy, so King Arthur allows her to sentence him. She says he has a year to answer this question: What do women want?
A Sad Marriage
He made a promise!
The Knight goes in search of the answer. He asks women far and wide what they want most, but no one can seem to come to a consensus.
A Beautiful Woman All Along
His year up, he travels back to King Arthur's court in dismay. However, he sees a bunch of women dancing. When he comes closer, they vanish, and an old woman stands before him. She promises to answer his question: but, he has to do what she asks of him.
The Old Woman's answer is correct! He's saved! But, her request is that the Knight MARRY her on the spot. So, with a lot of grumbling, he marries her. They go to bed.
I immediately regret this decision.
When they get into bed, the Knight is so repulsed by his new, elderly wife. When she asks why, he says rudely that she's poor, ugly, and low-born. The Old wife takes each of those objections one by one, arguing that he's the disdainful one-- not her. She gives him a choice:to be young and unfaithful OR old and faithful. He sighs and gives HER the choice. She transforms into a beautiful young woman who vows to be faithful.