Published DateMEREDITH — On Tuesday May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Meredith Public Library, Meredith author Peter Miller will read his original retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer's famous "Wife of Bath's Tale" from his book "Seven Canterbury Tales Retold."
The presentation is free and all are invited. The story will be of interest to mature adolescents and adults of all ages.
In Chaucer's tale, which is set in King Arthur's time, a knight rapes a young maiden and is sentenced to die. Queen Guinevere intercedes on his behalf, and he is given the opportunity to save his life if he can, within a year and a day, discover "what thing it is that women most desire." The knight's quest seems futile until, a year later, he encounters an ugly old hag, who reveals the answer in exchange for his promise to grant her one wish.
The knight repeats what the hag told him to Guinevere and her court. "Women desire to have as much sovereignty over their husbands as they would over a lover." (Note: In Chaucer's day, women had vastly unequal status in marriage by law and custom.) That proves correct, the knight's life is spared, and the hag presents her demand on the spot. "Take me for your wife, for well you know that I have saved your life." The knight protests because she is so foul, but he must comply. Their wedding is joyless, and he dreads their first night in bed, but yields. "Then have I got mastery of you?" she asks. He affirms that. "Kiss me," she says, and when he does she transforms into a lovely young woman. He kisses her a thousand times, she grants his every pleasure and desire, and they live the rest of their lives in perfect joy.
Regarding his variation on this story, Miller says, "My tale, which is set on a college campus in the 1960's, retains all the elements of Chaucer's story, with one very significant and surprising change. I won't say what that is, for that would be a spoiler. But I can assure listeners that they will hear an original, delightful love story told in Chaucer's own style."
This will be the first public presentation of Miller's version of the "Wife of Bath's Tale." Though it was written in 1995, it was not published until 2012, when the full set of seven improvisations was completed.