Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Canterbury Tales in Brief

The Knight's Tale
An adaptation of Boccaccio's Tereisda; a courtly story of the rival love of Palamon and Arcite, prisoners of Theseus, king of Athens, for Emilye, sister of Theseas's wife Ypolita. When they fight for her hand at a tournament Palamon is defeated but, at the moment of victory, Arcite is thrown from his horse and fatally injured. The story ends with the marriage of Palamon and Emilye and Theseas's noble speech on the law of succession in nature.

"The Knight's Tale" is the longest and one of the best—a tale of chivalric romance adapted from Boccaccio. Theseus, returning in victory to Athens with his new queen Hippolyta and her sister Emilia, is met by a company of black-clad women. King Creon of Thebes will not allow their dead husbands decent burial. Theseus fights with Creon and slays him. Among his prisoners are two wounded Theban knights. Arcite and Palamon, cousins, sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. Years later, Emilia is seen by the two prisoners from their tower, and both fall in love with her. They quarrel fiercely and face bitterly the future of having to be imprisoned together forever. Pirithous, a close friend of Theseus and Arcite, persuades Theseus to release the latter. Theseus complies on the condition that Arcite will never to come near Athens. Palamon is anguished that Arcite is free to woo Emilia; Arcite mourns his inability to see Emilia again, and goes to Thebes. Two years of suffering, so much alters Arcite's face that he determines to return to Athens under the name of Philostrate. Theseus makes him a squire, and he soon becomes the King's trusted aide. Five years pass. Palamon gives a drug to the jailer and escapes. Hiding in the woods at night, he overhears Arcite lamenting. Palamon reveals himself. They quarrel in jealous rage, promising to meet on the same spot for a dual next day; Arcite will bring the other food and armour, Theseus, out hunting with his court, comes upon the two fight. The ladies move his pity, and he forgives the two men. They are to return in fifty weeks with a hundred knights each, and joust for the hand of Emilia. Theseus meanwhile build a theatre, a mile in circumference for the event. Before the battle Palamon prays to Venus and receives a sign foretelling his victory. Emilia prays to Diana and asks peace for the rivals, since she wishes to marry neither. Diana reveals that Emilia must marry one. Arcite prays to Mars, who grants him a sign of victory. Thus there is strife in Heaven, but Saturn hits on a compromise. At the tournament Palamon is wounded and Arcite declared victor. But a Fury bursts forth out of the earth and Arcite is hurled to the ground. Theseus declares both sides victorious. Dying, Arcite yields to Palamon and urges Emilia to wed. Theseus declared a hero's funeral for Arcite. After a period of mourning. Theseus seals the bond between Emilia and Palmon. They marry and live happily.
The Miller's Tale
An uproarious, scurrilous story of deception. Nicholas, a scholar, wishing to lie with Alisoun, the young wife of an Oxford carpenter, by predicting a second flood persuades, the carpenter to attach three tubs as beds to the ceiling for safety. This deception succeeds in the way he had hoped ; but he is painfully discomforted when he tries to deceive the priest-lover of Alisoun who hopes to kiss her lips through her bedroom window. There are analogues in German, Flemish and Italian of this type of fabliau.
A rich Oxford carpenter has lately married a wild wanton young wife. Alison; a poor scholar, Nicholas, boards with them. Nicholas woos Alison in her husband's absence, and speaks so well that she agrees to give her love if he can contrive to fool her jealousc husband. At church one day, the parish-clerk Absalom, is smitten by her too, and that night serendades her; but she loves only Nicholas. Nicholas has a plan. With provender he locks himself in his room for days. When the carpenter questions him, Nicholas seems immersed in studies of astrology, and tells the former that soon a flood greater than Noah's will drown the earth. He urges the carpenter to get three tubs and suspend them by ropes from the ceiling, so that they float away in safety. The carpenter does as bidden. The three climb ladders to their tubs and Nicholas cautions the carpenter to be silent and pray. The husband falls into a deep sleep; Nicholas and Alison  descend and take their pleasure. Absalom, who has been told that the carpenter is off in London, goes again to Alison's window. When he pleads for a kiss, she puts her backside out of the window, and he kisses that. Absalom hears himself mocked. From a smithy he
procures a hot coulter and returns, promising a gold ring for another kiss. In sport, Nicholas leans out of the window and is struck with the coulter
. He shouts out in pain for water. The carpenter hearing the cry, thinks the flood come, releases the tub, and drops to the floor. The hue and cry bring the townfolk. When the carpenter tells his story, he is pronounced mad by his wife and Nicholas, and the townfolk believe he must be.
The Reeve's Tale
Stung by the Miller's story, the Reeve, a carpenter himself, retaliates in kind by telling 'in his cherles termes' a merry fabliau of the discomfiture of 'hoote deynous'. Symkyn, a miller of Trumpington. Two clerks, Aleyn and John, robbed by Symkyn of part of some grain they carried, revenge themselves on his wife and daughter. The scholars' northern dialect can be fairly accurately localised. A close French analogue, Le Meunier et les exists in two MSS.
Near Cambridge lives a sly miller named Bully Simkin, a thief of corn and meal. His wife, a parson's daughter reared in a nunnery, is full of disdainful airs. They have a twenty-year-old daughter and six-month-old   infant.   The   Miller   is   prospering,   grinding   the   wheat from  all  about,  his  main  source  being the great college  at Cambridge, King's Hall. Two young clerks, Alan and John, bring their wheat to the miller, determined he shall steal nothing from them. But the wily miller unhitches their horse, and while the clerks pursue it into the fen Simon steals half a bushel of flour and his wife kneads it into a loaf. The weary clerks return late and ask for lodging for the night. While the miller and his wife are snoring. Alan creeps into the daughter's bed, and is welcomed there. John takes the cradle from the foot of the miller's bed to his own. The wife, getting up to answer a call of a nature, mistakes John's bed for her own because of the cradle. He leaps on her and gives her a merry time. At dawn the girl tells Alan where to find the loaf made of his meal. He creeps back by mistake to the miller's bed, and wakes him. They fight furiously. The wife by error hits her husband on the head with a staff. The clerks escape with the flour and bread.
The Cook's Tale
"The Cook's Tale" is one of a merry apprentice of the guild of victuallers Perkin who uses his master's money to gamble with. His master finally discharges him, and goes to a friend whose wife keeps a shop for show but makes her living otherwise. (Here the tale stops.)
A fragment which Chaucer perhaps meant to suppress (the Host later calls for a story from the Cook). If completed it would probably have been a tale of urban 'harlotrie' (prostitution) matching the Cook's character as the rural matters of the Miller and the Reeve did theirs.
The Tale of Gamelyn
Ascribed to the Knight's Yeoman in some manuscripts; a brisk tale of the greenwood, connected with the Robin Hood cycle and with As You Like It is, according to several critical opinions, spurious.
The Man of Law's Tale
Constance, the beautiful, innocent heroine, is twice falsely accused, twice set adrift in a small vessel and left to the mercy of the sea. As in the romance Havelok the episodes are quite gratuitously duplicated, but the tale is saved by the noble figure of Constance who, like the ascetic women of the middle ages, sees the brightness of heaven rather than the trials of earth. The primary source is a passage in Nicholas Trivet's Anglo-Norman Chronicle, c. 1335. Cf. Gower's treatment of the same story in Canfessio Amantis.
Soldan of Syria hearing reports of the beauty, courtesy, and virtue of the Roman Emperor's daughter, falls in love with her, and pines for her. He and his barons and subjects are therefore all christened; the Emperor thereupon agrees to the marriage, and
Constance, after mournful farewells, journeys to her promised husband. But the Soldan's mother and her co-conspirators swear to defend their old faith. Treacherously, she pretends to accept Christianity, and at the wedding-feast the evil woman has all the Christians and converts murdered except Constance, who is set adrift on a ship without a rudder. God protects her for more than three years, when at last the sea cast her ship on the shores of Northumberland, near where resides the Constable of the castle and his wife Hermengild. The latter pities the girl, who by her example winds over to Christianity first Hermengild and then the Constable. But Satan is jealous of her success. He causes a young knight to lust for her. When Constance repels his advances, he cuts Hermengild's throat and lays the bloody knife at Constance's side, for Constance has been sharing the lady's bed in the Constable's absence. The Constable returns with Aella, King of the land. No one believes that Constance is guilty but the false knight accuses her, swearing with his hand on the Gospels. Thereupon a hand strikes him on the neck; he falls down and his eyes burst from his head. The knight is executed, and many, including the King, are converted. Aella marries Constance. While he is, away at battle, Constance bears him a son. Aella's mother, Donegild, intercepts a messenger carrying news of the birth of Maurice. She gets the man drunk, substituting a letter saying the child is a fiend and the mother an elf. The King weeps, but. accepts the news with patience, and directs that mother and child be well looked after. Donegil intercepts this letter too, and her counterfeit letter orders the Constable to set Constance afloat with the child in the rudderless ship. In this way she floats on the sea for five years. The King, returning discovers the plot and slays his mother, and sorrows for his lost wife and child. Meantime, he Roman Emperor has sent an avenging army to Syria. On their return, they come upen Constance's ship, and bring the pair to Rome, where she lives unknown. In expiation for his mother's death, Aella makes a pilgrimage to Rome. At a feast there he beholds his son Maurice and is struck by the boy's resemblance to Constance, whom he seeks out. Aella protests his innocence, and they are reunited. Aella invites her father to a feast, and Constance discovers herself to the Emperor, to the latter's great joy. In later years the Pope makes Maurice, Emperor. Aella and Constance return to England, but Aella dies a year later. Constance returns to Rome and lives with her father, keeping herself busy with noble works.
The Wife of Bath's Tale
In 856 lines of prologue the Wife of Bath condemns celibacy by giving a coarse, turbulent account of her life with her five successive husbands. Her tale is a garnished folk-tale—resembling that of Florent in Gower's Confessio Amantis and the romance The Weddynge, of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell—about an Arthurian knight who, forced on pain of death to discover within a year what it is that women love most, is told the answer 'sovereignty' by a loathsome hag on condition that he marry her. He reluctantly agrees and she is miraculously transformed to youth and beauty.
"The Wife of Bath's Tale" has an important prologue,
written with raciness and brilliant satire at the expense of marriage. She speaks from experience having had five husbands, but is willing to have a sixth. But my husband, in her view, must be prepared to be her slave. Three of her husbands were good, rich and old, but she cared little for them though she managed them easily by chiding and whining and trickery. Her fourth husband had a mistress; her fifth, her favourite, was the most villainous of all, slighting and beating her; but he was so fresh and merry ! Though half of her age she had chosen him while her fourth was still alive. She gave him all her land and money; they had many quarrels, one of which she relates in full, but in the end she won dominion over him, and after that there was a peace. The tale she proceeds to tell is laid at the  court of king Arthur One of Arthur's knights ravished a maid and for the deed was condemned to death. But the Queen and her ladies beseech the King to spare him and the Knight's life is put in her hands. The Queen will grant him life if in a year and a day he can provide the answer to the question; what is it that women desire most ? He travels far and wide for the solution, but can find no two creatures who agree on the answer. Still ignorant, he is sorrowfully journeying back to the Court when he meets a company of dancing ladies in the forest. Thinking to question them he approaches but the dancers disappear. Instead, an ugly old crone is there sitting on the grass. He states his problem. She agrees to furnish the answer if he will swear to do the first thing she requires from him. She whispers in his ear, and the knight leaves for the Court. Before the full assembly there he announces that what women wish most is to have sovereignty over their husbands and lovers. All the women are compelled to accept that as the correct answer, and agree he has won his freedom. Where upon, the old lady jumps up and demands justice the knight must marry her. He tries to offer her payment for her help, but she insists. They are married. When they are alone, she asks the reason for his misery; he tells her it is due to her being so old, ugly, and lowly. She reminds him that Jesus was poor; if she is old, she ought to be the more respected; moreover; he need not fear she will ever deceive him for another man. He may now choose whether he will have her old, ugly and faithful; or young, fair, and wanton. Sighing, he decides to put himself in her hands. Suddenly she is transformed into a young, beautiful woman, who swears (because of his trust in her) ever to be faithful. They live in perfect joy to the end of their days. The Wife of Bath concludes with a wish that women may have young, meek husbands. 'May those who will not be ruled, die before their wives.'
The Friar's Tale
A trenchant illustration of the importance of intention when invoking or cursing God. A widow, pressed by a summoner for a payment of 'twelf pens in default of appearing before the archdeacon's court, commends him to the devil ; the fiend promptly appears and bears the summoner off to hell. No precise source is known, but the motif is a common one.
A certain archdeacon was unrelenting in his punishment of sins and offences, especially those of lechers. In his employ was the slyest of Summoners, who could well spare two lechers if they led to two dozen; he often plots with bawds to extort money from their clients. One day, riding to summon a widow, he meets a gay yeoman, who himself to be a fiend from hell, after they have sworn brotherhood. They travel on, agreeing to share their pickings. They come upon a carter cursing his horses; but the fiend cannot take him because the curse was not really meant. They find an old widow; the Summoner demands twelve pence of her even though he knows of no fault in her. He accuses her of having cuckolded her husband. She curses him in earnest : "May the devil take him ere he die unless he repent." Since he will not- repent, the fiend carries the Summoner off.
The Summoner's Tale
The Summoner retalitates by relating an earthly story of the unsavoury bequest of a bed-ridden villager named Thomas to a greedy and hypocritical friar. The only known analgoue is Li Dis de le Vescie a prestre (The Story of the Priest's Bladder) by a certain Jacques de Baisieux.
"The Summoner's Tale" deals with a certain begging monk inYorkshire, whose fellow writes down what they receive from people to pray for them; a sturdy ruffain is their treasure. When they have a house, they scratch the name off the tablet. At last the friar reaches a house where he expects particularly superior refreshment, while his fellows have gone off to the hosterly in town. The goodman is ill. The friar tells the goodman, Thomas how he has prayed for him, and kisses the wife in welcome, flattering her. She complains of her husband's temper. The friar chides him. She then asks the monk what he would like for dinner, and reveals that her child died two weeks ago. He professes to have known this sad event by revelation, and tells her that he and his brothers have sung a To Deum. Praising his order, he exclaims against wealth, and observes that the prayers of friars are always effective. Thomas declares that he has given most of his wealth to friars. Why spread the gift so thin ? The friar asks. Let Thomas give all his money to the friar's convent for potent prayers, and not fight with his wife any more. Thomas agrees to give something if he will share it with his brothers equally. He tells the friar to reach beneath his buttock; the former does so, whereupon Thomas lets out a blast of wind. The friar is then driven from the house, and in anger goes to the lord of the village. The friar tells the lord and his lady, whom he is used to confessing, how his holy convent has been blasphemed by Thomas. They react calmly the lady describing it as churl's deed, and the lord wondering where Thomas received the inspiration. The lord's squire offers, in exchange for a new gown, to tell how the gift of Thomas can be divided equally. When the air is clear, let a cartwheel with twelve spokes be brought; twelve brothers are to have their noses at each end, and the friar is to have his nose at the have. Thomas can then be set by the have with a taut belly. The stink will spread, and each of the brothers will get his share.
The Clerk's Tale
The story of patient Griselda is adapted from a Latin letter by Petrarch, Epistolae Seniles, Book XVII. Letter III and an anonymous French prose translation of it, Le Libre Griseldis. But the events described—the monstrous testing of the heroine's virtue and devotion, the surrender of her children, their miraculous restoration to recompense her patience—are embedded in folk-tale. Chaucer lightens this harrowing tale at the end with a witty and disarming envoy.
"The Clerk's Tale" is the old story of Patient Griselda, told first by Boccaccio in the Decameron and later by Petrarch. Walter, the Marquis of Saluzzo is favoured by birth, an able and honoured monarch. His greatest fault is thinking only of present delights like hawking and hunting, and he has given no thought to marriage. A delegation of his subjects beg him to choose a wife and continue the family line. Moved by their plea, he agrees on condition they give all honour to his wife, nor grumble at whoever shall be his choice. They assent, and prepare for a great marriage-feast. Near his palace lives the poorest man in the village, Janicula, and his daughter Griselda, a fair and virtuous maid, patient and reverent to her father. The Marquis has noted her qualities, and decides to wed her. The wedding day arrives. The Marquis had made rings and clothing to her measure, though Griselda little dreams she is the chosen one. The marquis goes to her cottage with his retinue, where she is waiting for a glimpse of the new Marchioness, and asks for the girl's hand. Though astonished at the Marquis' request, the old man consents. The Marquis asks Griselda whether she will be governed in all her moods by his pleasure. She promises never to disobey him in deed or in thought, even though death threaten. They bring her to the palace where, transformed into a richly garbed noblewoman, she is hardly recognised by the people. God is kind, and in time she acquires all the manners of one to the manner born. She is perfect wife, and is celebrated for her charity and good works. Presently, she bears her husband a little girl. Now the Marquis decides to test her loyalty. He pretends that there have been complaints against the disparity of their rank since the child's birth, and sends a trusted officer to take the girl to his sister in Bologna. Griselda, informed that her infant is to be killed, endures the agony with patience, requesting only that the little-body be given decent burial. She remains a good wife, never mentioning her daughter. Four years later a boy is born to them. Two years after that, Walter again submits Griselda to the same test; again she is docile. When the daughter is twelve, Walter procures from Rome, which knows his plans, a counterfeit Papal Bull granting him the right to abandon Griselda and take another wife. Though grieved, Griselda still wishes only her lord's happiness. In the meantime, he asked his brother-in-law, the Earl of Panigo, to bring home the daughter and son with great pomp, the girl to be arrayed as if she were his bride-to-be. Walter makes as his excuse the dissatisfaction of they people, and tells Griselda to return to her father's "hut. She goes there to live in widowhood. The royal retinue presently arrives, and Griselda is sent for, as the only one who knows how to arrange things for the Marquis's pleasure. When the girl is seen, the common folk think that Walter is making a good choice in this second wife. Griselda is asked by Walter for her opinion of the new bride; she prays for the girl's prosperity and begs Walter not to torment her, for the girl was not nurtured in any way to endure adversity. He now confesses the whole truth, amid fountains of tears. The feat of celebration is far more splendid than their marriage feast was. The Marquis marries off his daughter well, and his son succeeds him. The Clerk remarks that Petrarch told this story not to preach humility of wives, an intolerable idea but the need of firmness in adversity.
The Merchant's Tale
This is a fabliau bolstered up with rhetoric colours, and ironically using the ideas and language of courtly love. January, wizened, old husband of a young wife, suffers both cuckoldry and the greater delusion that he had only dreamt what in fact he had seen. No precise source has been discovered, but the Pear Tree episode which forms the climax is current in many popular tales. Alexander retold the tale in a poem entitled January and May.
"The Merchant's Tale" is a satire on married life. An aging knight of Lombardy, after a life of pleasure, yearns to marry a young, beautiful maid, someone he can mould and live with in perfect joy. His brother, Justinus, who is married, warns him in vain of the folly of such a union. January finds a young and beautiful May, and weds her amidst much feasting. He can hardly wait for night to come. His squire, Damian, is entranced by May, but she pays him no attention. God knows what May thinks of her husband the next morning Damian inscribes a letter of anguish and lays it next to his heart. Four days after the wedding, Damian's absence at the table is noted. Informed that his squire is ill, January asks May to visit him. Accompanied by her women, she goes, and Damian secretly gives her the letter. She is moved to pity for him and writes him a letter granting him her favour; all that lacks now is the time and place. Damian instantly recovers. January makes a garden walled with stone, wherein to be merry with May. But Fortune strikes him with blindness in the midst of his joy. He begins to brood in fits of jealously, and makes her swear that should he die, she will remain a widow. She and Damian and burning with desire for each other, and he has a duplicate key to the garden made when she lets him have a wax-impression. One day in the garden, while January is imploring her to be true and she is weeping at the idea that she could be thought capable of infidelity, she beckons Damian to climb a pear tree. Pluto and Proserpina, watching the scene, take sides; Pluto wishes to restore January's sight, while Proserpina declares she will make May equal to the emergency. May expresses her longing for some pears in her condition; she will die unless she has them. January stoops; she uses him as a stool to climb the tree, where Damian receives her. Pluto restores January's sight; the husband sees the lovers on the tree, and loudly demands an explanation. Proserpina then affords May the answer: May declares that she was sought to stand in the trees with a man in order to restore her husband's sight. He cries that he has seen a worse sight than her merely standing; she assures him his sight is still imperfect. Lightly she leaps down; January embraces her, and leads her back to the palace.
The Squire's Tale
A fragment of an eastern romance, the 'half-told' story of Cambuscan, king of Tartary, his daughter Canace, and her magic ring. There are disappointing continuations of it by Spenser in Faerie Queene, IV, Cantos 2, 3; and by John Lane, a friend of Milton's father. Milton himself refers to it in 11 Penseroso. It is too brief for its source to be determined, but stories of magic rings, swords, mirrors, etc. are a commonplace in the east and in western medieval romances.
"The Squire's Tale" is an unfinished romance, often referred to by later poets. A noble, excellent king, Cambuscan of Tartary had by his wife Elspheta two sons, Algarsyf and Cambal, and a beautiful daughter, Canacee. Each year on his birthday he holds festivities. In the twentieth year of his reign, during the feast on the Ides of March, a strange knight appears, bearing gifts from the King of Araby. Cambuscan is presented with a wonderful brass horse which will bear him safely and swiftly wherever he wished to go. A mirror, a gift to Canacee, will reveal who is friend and who is foe, and foretell adversity to the realm or King. The ring, also a gift for the princess will teach the wearer to understand the voice of the birds and the herbs and grass. Camuscan is given a magic sword which can cut through all armour, and which can restore to health any man cut by its blade when the flat side is laid across the wound. The next morning Canacee arises early for a walk with some of her women. They come upon a white falcon, weeping and lamenting, tearing at her bloody breast with her beak. The princess understands the bird's, lament, which tells how she was betrayed in love by tercelet to whom she had yielded her honour, and who has deserted her a kite. The falcon shrieks and swoons into Canacee's lap. The princess takes her home to nurse her. Chaucer says he will tell now of the deeds of Carabuscan. But the tale is left unfinished.
The Franklin's Tale
The Franklin's claim to have 'in remembraunce' a lay of 'Thise olde gentil Britouns' is probably conventional, but his tale does have two of the commonest elements of the Breton lay—the rash promise and the fulfilment of an impossible condition by magic. The closest analogue is the story of Menedon in Boccaccio's Filocolo. Dorigen, faithful wife of Arverigus, embarrassed by the advances of Aurelius, consents to grant her love to him if all the rocks on the coast of Brittany be removed. A magician achieves this, but Aurelius generously releases her from her rash vow and is unexpectedly compensated himself.
In Armorica (Brittany), Arveragus, a noble knight, has won as his wife by his noble deeds the lady he loves. For a year they live in a joy until he departs for England for two years to seek honour in arms. Dorigen, his wife, mourns his departure and broods in sorrow. Her friends devise amusements to restore her cheer. At a festival gathering, the squire Aurelius, long in love with her, speaks with her, confesses his adoration, begging for her love lest he die. She vows she will never be an unfaithful wife, and jestingly adds that she could yield her love only when the sombre rocks that lime Brittany's coast have disappeared. Arveragus returns to his joyful wife, and he and Dorigen take up their happy life together. Aurelius meanwhile languishes in torment. After two years, his brother remembers something of the magic arts of the clerks at Orleans, where he has studied. Knowing Aurelius' plight, he goes off with him there. A magician promises to create the illusion of the removal of the rock if paid a thousand pounds. Aurelius agrees. With astrological aid, the miracle is accomplished. Aurelius reminds Dorigen of her promise. She is determined to die rather than be disloyal to her husband. He, seeing her sad, questions her, and she tells him all. Rather than see her betray her word, Arveragus tells her she must keep it, no matter what misery it cost him. She tells Aurelius of her husband's decision. Impressed by their nobility and honour, Aurelius releases her from her promise. But he must still pay the magician. He begs the latter to allow him to pay in install ments. The magician, hearing the whole story, releases the squire from the debt. Which, we are asked, is the most generous?
The Physician's Tale
The story of Virginia's voluntary death at the hands of her father to spare her from the designs of the wicked judge Apius. Gower tells the story independently in Confessio Amantis. Chaucer's immediate source is the Roman de la Rose, but he may have known the original story in Livy's History, Book III (as the Physician claims).
"The Physician's Tale" deals with the knight Virginius, of whom Titus Livius tells. The knight has a beautiful chaste daughter. One day an evil judge, Appius, sees her and determines to have her. He hires a cunning churl Claudius, to bring suit against Virginius, accusing him of stealing the girl from his household. Without giving Virginius a chance to plead, Appius gives judgement to Claudius that the girl is to be put in Appius' keeping. Rather than see his daughter forced to live in shame, Virginius cuts off her head and brings it to court. Appius orders him to be hanged. But a thousand people hearing of the false accusation, burst in to save the knight. Appius is thrown into prison, where he kills himself. Claudius is condemned to be hanged, but at Virginius' intercession is exiled.
The Pardoner's Tale
The vain and hypocritical Pardoner confirms his character in the famous cynical sermon-confession of his own rapacity and dishonesty in his Prologue. In the tale, three revellers are directed by an old man to a tree where they find a heap of gold and ultimately, through avarice, their own doom. There are many caster and continental analogues for the Robber and Treasure story, but the old man (Death ?, the Wandering Jew?) in the story is Chaucer's own addition.
The Shipman's Tale
This has the folk-tale motif of the Lover's Gift Regained, and has points in common with Boccaccio's Decameron, VIII, 1 and 2. The wife of an overthrifty merchant asks a monk to lend her, 100 francs. Some lines at the beginning of the tale have been taken to indicate that the tale was meant for a woman.
"The Shipman's Tale" tells of a rich merchant and his lovely extravagant wife who loves company and revelry. Among their many guests is one to whom the merchant has pledged close ties of brotherhood, a monk called Brother John, who always comes bearing gifts for all. Before taking a business trip to Bruges, the merchant invites Brother John for a brief visit. On the third day, while the merchant is in his counting-house, the wife inveghs[10] against her husband's stinginess to Brother John, begs him to lend her a hundred francs for a gown, and promises in return to render whatever service he will exact. After dinner, the priest borrows the money from the merchant. The latter leaves for Flanders. Brother John gives the wife the money in return for her love. Meanwhile, the merchant is worrying about his diminishing finances, goes to Paris to make a loan, and en route stops by to see the priest who tells him that the hundred francs have been returned to the wife. When the merchant is home again, he chides his wife for not telling him the loan was repaid. Definitely, she says that she thought the monk had given her the money in a   cousinly way to spend on herself, and that she had spent it all on clothes. Seeing he cannot change her, her husband forgives her with the exhortation to be less lavish henceforth.
The Prioress's Tale
A tale of simple pathos and unknown origin in rhyme-royal, telling of the martyrdom of a widow's 7-year-old son, murdered by Jews for singing 'o alma Redemptoris mater' (a devotional song in honour of the Blessed Virgin) on his way to school. His singing, miraculously prolonged after his death, guides 'Cristene folk' to his body.
Chaucer's Tale.
Sir Thopas 'Elvyssh' Chaucer essays to entertain his companions with a cunning burlesque on some banal contemporary metrical romances; he specifically mentions Sir ‘Beves’ of Hampton, and 'Sir Gy' of Warwick; and 'Horn child' probably refers to King Horn. Not even Harry Bailly can endure his 'verray lewednesse' and he is shouted down.
"The Rime of Sir Thopas" is told by Chaucer himself. It is burlesque on the chivalric romance. Sir Thopas, a fair and noble knight, is described in great detail many a maid mourns for him in vain. Riding in a forest, he falls to longing, and dreams that an elf-queen would be a worthy mate for him. He rides in quest of her, but meets instead a huge giant, who challenges him. He prepares himself in fine array, and rides forth to meet Sir Elephant….. Here the Host stops Chaucer, disparaging his verse, and bids him try something in prose. Chaucer, thereupon launches into The Tale of Melibeus.
Tale of Melibeus
After this interruption Chaucer proceeds to tell a 'moral tale vertuous' in prose, a long disputation between Melibeus and his wife Prudence on the merits of violence and non-violence. It is a close rendering of the French Livre de Mellibee et Prudence by either Jean de Meung or Renaud de Louens, which in turn is condensed paraphrase of the Liber Consolationis et Consilii of Albertanun of Brescia.
"The Tale of Melibeus" is, perhaps by comic design, a dull affair, Melibeus, young and rich, one day goes to his field leaving his wife and daughter at home. Three old enemies beat his wife and dangerously wound the daughter. Returning, he is overcome by hate and grief, and would wreak vengeance on the men. But he is dissuaded by his wife, with many quotations from the classics and the Scriptures, and decides to temper justice with mercy.
The Monk's Tale
An interrupted series of short formal tragedies (in the medieval sense of 'men fallen from high estate') in stanzaic form. Harry Bailly dubs them 'not worthy a butterfly', but one, the tale of Ugolino (derived from (Dante's Inferno) is a pocket masterpiece. They are from various sources and are arranged in the manner of Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium.
It is a series of instance of the fall of illustrious men, taken largely from Boccaccio and The Romance of the Rose. The accounts vary from a few lines (as in the stories of Lucifer and Adam) to a few hundred (as in the stories of Samson and Zenobia). Other tales are those of Hercules, Nebuchandezzar, Belshazzar. King Peter of Cyprus, Nero, Alexander Caesar and Croesus.
The Nun's Priest's Tale
An Aesopian fable and a sparkling exercise in mock-heroic with much to say concering dreams, matrimony, predestination and the rules of rhetoric, all favourite Chucerian (and medieval) themes. The bare suggestion for this delicious farmyard rough and tumble may have come from the French Roman de Renart ; but the riotous execution of it is unmistakably Chaucer's own.
"The Nun's Pries's Tale" is a masterpiece of humour, lively dialogue and intelligence. It is a beast's fable, influenced by such works as Reynard the Fox. A poor widow lives with her two daughters in a little cottage. In her yard is a fine cock, Chanticleer, a lusty, merry crower with a harem of sever hens. His favourite is Parlet. One night he dreams he is being attacked by an ugly beast, and awakens Parlet with his groans. He tells her his dream, and she chides him for his cowardice. Chanticleer counters with the tale of a man who disbelieved a warning dream and in consequence his friend was killed. In a second dream a man was told where to find the body and thus the murder was discovered. Another man refused to sail because of a dream; his companion paid no heed and wasdrowned. Chanticleer tells other tales of Joseph, and And romache. The sight of Parlet gives him such joy that he defies all dreams. But women's counsel is baneful. One march morning Chanticleer sees a fox who has been lying in wait for him. The sly beast keeps him from fleeing by flattering him : he is enchanted by Chanticleer's exquisite voice, and begs him to sing. Chanticleer stands on his toes, stretches his neck and closing his eyes, begins to crow. Russel, the fox, seizes him by the throat, and carries him off to the woods. The seven hens set up a loud lamentation, louder than were heard at the sack of Troy. The widow and her daughter run out in time to see the fox's escape. They raise the neighbours, and all give chase. Frightened Chanticleer suggests to the fox, now that he has come to the edge of the woods, to defy the pursuers. The fox opens his mouth to answer a tree. Once more the fox seeks to capture him with flattery, but Chanticleer has learnt his lesson.
The Second Nun's Tale
Chaucer may have derived this well-known story from a MS. of the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine.
"The Second Nun's Tale" is the story of St. Cecilia, related "with pious simplicity. Cecily, born of a noble Roman family, has been raised as a Christian. On her wedding night, she tells her new husband, Valerian, that an angel has been guarding her and has threatened to slay the man who will attempt her virginity. She adds that Valerian must be baptized before she can offer him proof of this. After being baptized by Urban, Valerian sees the angel, who gives a crown of Lilies to Cecily and one of roses to Valerain, both garlands fresh from praise. Valerian asks that his brother Tiburtius be allowed grace, and he is also persuaded to become a Christian. Later both brothers are sent to their death as Christian martyrs. Almachius, the prefect, summons Cecily to sacrifice before Jupiter and renounce Christianity. When she refuses, he orders to be set in a bath with a great fire beneath it, but she does not sweet even a drop. The executioner hacks at the neck three times in vain the law forbids a fourth stroke. For three days she lives with her neck cut, preaching and instructing. Then she dies, Urban and his deacons bury her.
The Canon's Yeonman's Tale
A canon and his yeoman join the company at 'Boghton-under-Blee' (now Boughton-under-Blean, five miles from Canterbury) and the latter, hotfoot on his arrival, tells this tale about the impostures of alchemists. There is no known source, and it can perhaps be reasonably assumed to be based on a current anecdote.
"The Canon's Yeoman's Tale" is a clever attack on alchemy. One day a canon approaches a priest who lives in the house of a good wife at her expense, for he is a very pleasant priest. The canon borrows a mark, which he returns as promptly as promised. For the priest's courtesy, the canon offers to show him how to work in philosophy. First he makes silver out of quick-silver by putting some real silver in the hollow of a coal, stuffing it with wax, which quickly melts. He repeats his magic by putting some silver in a hollow stirring stick in the same manner. A goldsmith examines the silver and finds it pure, much to the priest's delight. In exchang for the recipe, the cannon exacts forty pounds in nobles from the priest, and then disappears. The moral is to beware of alchemists.
The Maniciple's Tale
The fable of the tell-tale bird found in Ovid's Metamorphoses II, and in many authors after him (e.g. in Gower's Confessio Amantis'). A crow, able to imitate human speech, reveals to Phoebus his wife's infidelity. The enraged Phoebus kills his wife and then in a fit of remorse plucks out the bird's white feathers and silences his power of speech. And so all crows are black.
"The Manciple's Tale" warns us to meddle in the love affairs of anyone else. Phoebus, flower of knighthood and a fine musician as well, has a snow-white crow in a cage at his house, and which he has taught to speak as well as a man and sing as sweetly as a nightingale. Phoebus also has a wife whom he loves dearly and guards jealously. But it is a waste of labour to watch a wife. While Phoebus is away, his wife sends for her lover and they enjoy themselves while the crow watches in silence. But when Phoebus returns home the crow sings, "Cuckoo", and tells how a man of small reputation has supplanted the noble Phoebus in his wife's favours. In rash ire Phoebus slays his wife with his celebrated bow. But as she lies dead before him, he doubts the crow's truth and begins to hate him Furiously he tears out the bird's white feathers and makes him black, bereaving him of song as well as of speech. For this cause all crows are now black and have harsh voices. From this tale it is clear that one should never tell a man of his wife's fraility.
The Parson's Tale
Because he has no skill in alliterative verse (I kan nat geeste 'rum, ram, ruf’ by lettre, Parson's Prologue 43) or in rhyme, the Parson proposes to tell a 'myrie tale in prose'/To knytte up 'all this feeste, and make an ende', which turns out to be a long orthodox dissertation on penitence and divine mercy with a digression on the seven deadly sins), derived ultimately from the Summa of St. Raymund of Pennaforte, a 13th century Dominician.
"The Parson's Tale" is the longest and dullest of all the tales, and is heavily weighed down by moralizing. Beginning with a discussion on the nature of penance, it proceeds to a weary sermon  on the seven deadly sins, the captains of all other sins, and their related vices, and the cures available. Pride is the root of all evil and Meekness the chief remedy.

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