The story begins with a knight. He comes across a fair maiden and steels her maidenhood. The king wants his execution for punishment but the queen begs him otherwise. The queen gives the knight a choice, he can die then and there or answer a question. He choose the later of the two. The question was "What do women most desire?" He had a year to research and come up with his answer. An old hag gave him his answer but in return he had to marry her and love her. The knight answered the queen's question correctly, but was not happy about marrying the old and ugly lady. He was rude to her so she went on this long tangent basically saying that he could either accept her the way she was as a supportive and loyal wife or take her as an unfaithful fair maiden. After listening to her long speech, the knight gave her her own choice, wanting her to choose what would be for her. Touched by this, she decides on both. She could be both fair and loyal. Once she was beautiful, they lived happily ever after.
Wife of Bath (indirect characterization):
Characterized as an elderly hag. She doesn't object to it.
"For though I may be ugly, elderly, and poor."
Knights initial reaction to her after she asks for his hand in return for saving his life.
"For love of God, please choose a new request. Take all my goods and let my body go."
"You are so old and loathsome and descended, to add to that you're from such a lowly kind."
Rather than be offended by this the women try's to make a deal with the knight.
"I could amend the stress you are under, if you desire, within the next few days, if you'll treat me more kindly in your ways."
Once she turned young and beautiful, the knight fell in love with her.
"And when the knight had truly seen all of this, how she was young and fair in all her charms, in utter joy her took her in his arms."
Chaucer's purpose in telling this story is show that there is true beauty within and all it takes is the acceptance and love of someone else to bring it out. Once the knight realized how beautiful the woman was on the inside, it was no longer difficult to see her beauty on the outside as well. This story teaches the importance of acceptance.