twenty-seven of these pilgrims, including a Knight, Squire, Yeoman, Prioress, Monk, Friar, Merchant, Clerk, Man of Law, Franklin,Haberdasher, Carpenter, Weaver, Dyer, Tapestry-Weaver, Cook, Shipman, Physician, Wife, Parson, Plowman, Miller, Manciple,Reeve, Summoner, Pardoner, and Host. (He does not describe the Second Nun or the Nun’s Priest, although both characters appearlater in the book.) The Host, whose name, we find out in the Prologue to the Cook’s Tale, is Harry Bailey, suggests that the group ridetogether and entertain one another with stories. He decides that each pilgrim will tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two onthe way back. Whomever he judges to be the best storyteller will receive a meal at Bailey’s tavern, courtesy of the other pilgrims. Thepilgrims draw lots and determine that the Knight will tell the first tale.The Knight’s TaleTheseus, duke of Athens, imprisons Arcite and Palamon, two knights from Thebes (another city in ancient Greece). From their prison,the knights see and fall in love with Theseus’s sister-in-law, Emelye. Through the intervention of a friend, Arcite is freed, but he isbanished from Athens. He returns in disguise and becomes a page in Emelye’s chamber. Palamon escapes from prison, and the twomeet and fight over Emelye. Theseus apprehends them and arranges a tournament between the two knights and their allies, withEmelye as the prize. Arcite wins, but he is accidentally thrown from his horse and dies. Palamon then marries Emelye.The Miller’s Prologue and TaleThe Host asks the Monk to tell the next tale, but the drunken Miller interrupts and insists that his tale should be the next. He tells thestory of an impoverished student named Nicholas, who persuades his landlord’s sexy young wife, Alisoun, to spend the night withhim. He convinces his landlord, a carpenter named John, that the second flood is coming, and tricks him into spending the night in atub hanging from the ceiling of his barn. Absolon, a young parish clerk who is also in love with Alisoun, appears outside the windowof the room where Nicholas and Alisoun lie together. When Absolon begs Alisoun for a kiss, she sticks her rear end out the window inthe dark and lets him kiss it. Absolon runs and gets a red-hot poker, returns to the window, and asks for another kiss; when Nicholassticks his bottom out the window and farts, Absolon brands him on the buttocks. Nicholas’s cries for water make the carpenter thinkthat the flood has come, so the carpenter cuts the rope connecting his tub to the ceiling, falls down, and breaks his arm.
The Reeve’s Prologue and TaleBecause he also does carpentry, the Reeve takes offense at the Miller’s tale of a stupid carpenter, and counters with his own tale of adishonest miller. The Reeve tells the story of two students, John and Alayn, who go to the mill to watch the miller grind their corn, sothat he won’t have a chance to steal any. But the miller unties their horse, and while they chase it, he steals some of the flour he has
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