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The Canterbury Tales | Section Summaries

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Section Summaries Chart

Section Summary
Prologue Chaucer's Prologue begins with a description of springtime. The April rains drench the ground, and roots deep in the soi... Read More
The Knight's Tale Theseus, Duke of Athens, was a mighty conqueror, even triumphing over the Amazons and taking the queen of the Ama... Read More
The Miller's Tale Chaucer notes that the company, especially the "gentlefolk," enjoyed the Knight's tale. Harry Bailey then says it is the... Read More
The Reeve's Prologue and Tale Everyone but Oswald the Reeve (who is a carpenter) thinks the Miller's tale is hilarious. The Reeve then says he is old ... Read More
The Cook's Prologue and Tale The Cook finds the Reeve's tale funny and decides he will tell a tale of his own. Harry Bailey teases him a bit but agre... Read More
The Man of Law's Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue Harry Bailey notes that it is now 10 o'clock in the morning and calls upon the Man of Law to tell his story, reminding h... Read More
The Shipman's Tale There is no prologue to the Shipman's tale, but in the Epilogue of the Man of Law's tale, the Shipman objects to the Hos... Read More
The Prioress's Prologue and Tale Harry Bailey now politely calls on the Prioress to tell her story, and she agrees. First she prays and dedicates her sto... Read More
Chaucer's Tale of Sir Topaz The Prioress's tale has a sobering effect on the company, so Harry Bailey calls on Chaucer to tell a "tale of mirth." Th... Read More
Chaucer's Tale of Melibee Melibee was a rich and mighty young man. One day, while Melibee is away from home, three burglars break into his home an... Read More
The Monk's Tale Harry Bailey is impressed with Dame Prudence's patience, noting that his own wife is not a peace-loving person. He then ... Read More
The Nun's Priest's Tale A poor widow keeps a few animals, including a rooster named Chanticleer—a fine specimen with a loud crow—and his seven h... Read More
The Physician's Tale The Physician's tale occurs in different positions in various editions, reflecting uncertainty among scholars about Chau... Read More
The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale Before he begins his story, the Pardoner describes his preaching methods. He says frankly that he puts on quite a show, ... Read More
The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale Before the Wife of Bath tells her story, she explains that she has been married five times. To justify her many marriage... Read More
The Friar's Prologue and Tale After hearing the Wife of Bath's tale, the Friar says their stories should steer clear of theological topics. He says he... Read More
The Summoner's Prologue and Tale The Summoner, incensed by the Friar's disrespect, tells an unflattering story about all the friars in Hell who live insi... Read More
The Clerk's Prologue and Tale Harry Bailey now calls on the Clerk to tell a story of adventure. The Clerk agrees. In Saluzzo, a beautiful regi... Read More
The Merchant's Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue Prompted by all the talk of husbands and wives, the Merchant chimes in, saying he is married to a horrible woman, nothin... Read More
The Squire's Prologue and Tale Harry Bailey now calls on the Squire to tell a tale. King Cambuskan was a man of many good qualities, honorable ... Read More
The Franklin's Prologue and Tale The Franklin says he is going to tell a story of a noble Breton, and he apologizes in advance for his "untutored speech"... Read More
The Second Nun's Prologue and Tale The Second Nun explains that she will tell a tale of Saint Cecilia. She prays to the Virgin Mary to "amend" her tale if ... Read More
The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue and Tale After the Second Nun's tale, two strangers approach the company on very tired horses—a Canon and his Yeoman. (A canon is... Read More
The Manciple's Prologue and Tale As the pilgrim company rides on, Harry Bailey notices that the Cook is asleep and says he should wake up and tell them a... Read More
The Parson's Prologue and Tale After the Manciple is done telling his story, Harry Bailey calls upon the Parson. But the parson says he will tell no "f... Read More
Chaucer's Retractions Chaucer begs readers' forgiveness if his work displeases and asks them to consider it the fault of his ability, not his ... Read More
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