Summoner, paints a humiliating picture of a wicked summoner in cahoots with the devil whose scheme against a widow backfires, landing him in hell. The Summoner retaliates by telling “The Summoner’s Tale,” in which a greedy, hypocritical friar visits the home of Thomas, a villager. In “The Clerk’s Tale,” patient Griselda, the daughter of the poorest man in a poor village, is married to a marquis who tests the limits of her patience by subjecting her to endless indignities. In “The Merchant’s Tale,” a young woman, married to an old man who goes blind, carries on an affair practically under his nose until the god Pluto restores the old man’s sight. Proserpine in turn gives the wife a good excuse for what the old man “sees” as his wife’s infidelity. “The Squire’s Tale,” an incomplete tale, tells of a king’s daughter, Canacee, who is given a brass horse that can fly, a mirror with the power to foretell disaster, and a ring that enables its wearer to understand the language of birds. In “The Franklin’s Tale,” Dorigen, wed to Averagus, is loved by Aurelius, in whom she has no interest. She promises to be his lover if he can accomplish the near-impossible task of clearing away all the rocks on the seacoast. With a magician’s help, Aurelius completes the task, but when he realizes Dorigen does not really want him, he releases her from her promise. In “The Physician’s Tale,” the Roman knight Virginius has a beautiful daughter Virginia, who is lusted after by a wicked judge, Apius. Apius schemes to get her under his power, and, when his success seems inevitable, Virginia tells her father she would rather die than become Apius’s lover. When she swoons, her father cuts off her head. In “The Pardoner’s Tale,” three blasphemous, lecherous revelers decide to seek out Death to destroy him. In their search, however, they find a cache of gold, which makes them turn on one another in their greed. They end up killing one another, thus meeting Death at last. In “The
Shipman’s Tale,” a monk cuckolds a miserly merchant and then causes his wife to reveal her infidelity to her husband. In “The Prioress’s Tale,” a boy, delighted with the song “Alma Redemptoris,” sings it so much that a group of Jews become incensed enough to hire someone to kill him. The killer tosses the body into a pit to hide it, but, miraculously, the dead boy begins to sing, and those searching for him find his body and the killers, who are quickly put to death. “The Monk’s Tale” actually combines several stories that tell of the fall from power or high station of Lucifer, Adam, Samson, Hercules, Nero, Julius Caesar, and several other men. Chaucer, the narrator, next begins “The Tale of Sir Thopas,” a kind of parodied romance, but he is interrupted by the Host, who claims the doggerel Chaucer uses is downright silly and lewd.
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- Fall '18
- Rowena Loadholt