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Summary and Analysis of The Nun's Priest's Tale

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Summary and Analysis of The Nun's Priest's Tale (The Canterbury Tales)

Prologue to the Nun's Priest's Tale:

The Knight interrupts the Monk's Tale, for as a man who has reached a certain estate, he does not like to hear tales of a man's fall from grace. He would rather hear of men who rise in esteem and status. The Host refuses to allow the Monk to continue, instead telling the Nun's Priest to tell his tale.

The Nun's Priest's Tale:

The Nun's Priest tells a tale of an old woman who had a small farm in which she kept animals, including a rooster named Chanticleer who was peerless in his crowing. Chanticleer had seven hens as his companions, the most honored of which was Pertelote. One night Chanticleer groaned in his sleep. He had a dream that a large yellow dog chased him. Pertelote mocked him for his cowardice, telling him that dreams are meaningless visions caused by ill humors. Citing Cato's advice, she tells him that she will get herbs from an apothecary that will cure his illness. Chanticleer, however, believes that dreams are prophetic, and tells a tale of a traveler who predicted his own death and whose companion dreamed about who murdered him and where the victim's body was taken. Another man dreamed that his comrade would be drowned, and this came true. He also cites examples of Croesus and Andromache, who each had prophecies in their dreams. However, Chanticleer does praise Pertelote, telling her "Mulier est hominis confusio" (Woman is man's confusion), which he translates as woman is man's delight and bliss. He then 'feathered' her twenty times before the morning. Following her advice, Chanticleer goes to search for the proper herbs. A fox saw Chanticleer and grabbed him. Pertelote began to squawk, which ale...

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... they are his delight and bliss.

The narrative thrust of the Nun's Priest's Tale is minimal, but the actions that it does contain gives an equal share of praise and mild criticism to both the husband and wife. Chanticleer is absurd to believe that his illness is caused by some psychic portent and rightly follows his wife's sane advice to find herbs to cure himself. However, when he does so, his prediction comes true ­ he is chased by a fox.

The Nun's Priest's Tale does contain some religious overtones. The old woman who owns the farm and saves Chanticleer behaves as a god-like figure, while the Nun's Priest establishes several trinities: the widow and her two daughters, the three cows, the three sows, and such. Yet these parallels cannot be stretched too far. They provide an allegorical frame for the story but do little to inform the actual substance of it.

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