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The Canterbury Tales Inquiry Project

Comparing the stories of Group A to the stories of Group D

Michael Dennis

on 3 December 2012

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Transcript of The Canterbury Tales Inquiry Project

Group A Tales Group B Tales The Reeve's Tale The Knight's Tale The Miller's Tale The Cook's Tale The Wife of Bath's Tale The Friar's Tale The Summoner's Tale Expectations VS Reality Indirect Insult Just Ending The Reeve's Prologue The Prologue picks up right after the Miller's tale. The Reeve takes offense from Absalon and Nicholas' tale because "he was a carpenter by trade." (Coghill 106) This insult drives the Reeve to tell his own Fabliau featuring a dishonest Miller. Quick Summary The tale begin with Simpkin, a miller who steals grain from his clients when he can. He weds the priest's natural-born daughter. He also has a daughter. One day a pair of clerks named John and Alan come to Simpkin to have wheat ground up. They decide to watch the miller work so he cannot steal their goods. Simpkin responds by sneaking out of the mill and untying their horse, forcing the clerks to chase after it. Simpkin takes a large portion of their grain which his wife bakes into cakes. Alan and John return to mill without a place to stay and pay the miller to sleep in his house. After dinner, the miller passes out from too much alcohol. That night the clerks share a room with Simpkin, his wife, and his daughter. Both clerks have realized that they were cheated and Alan pledges vengeance. He enacts this by seducing Simpkin's daughter. Not to be out done by his colleague, John then seduces the miller's wife. Come morning, Alan accidentally wakes Simpkin who then attempts to kill both clerks. While Alan and Simpkin fight, the wife wakes up and grabs a stick to hit Alan. However, because the darkness, the wife bashes and incapacitates Simpkin. The clerks take this opportunity to make off with their flour and the cakes made from their stole grain. Fundamental Fantasy Chaucer exercises great attention to detail in the Reeve's Tale. John and Alan come from a real college called King's Hall, Cambridge. Clerks from King's Hall were usual around 14 years old, making Alan "a proper lad" (Coghill 109) which Chaucer mentions Simpkin's daughter needs to become a true woman. Another small but important detail is the student's decision to stay at the miller's home instead of returning home. The road is not too dangerous at night for them to return. They do not because the rules of King's Hall prohibited clerks from returning after dark. Alan also demonstrates knowledge of the legal maxim, a concept many clerks would be familiar with. Chaucer creates fundamental fantasy in the Reeve's Tale with "local supporting realism." (Brewer 316) Wife of Bath's Tale

This prologue gives us background information on the Wife of Bath. She has been married through the church now five times. She defies expectations of the everyday woman of the time. The Wife of Bath also makes it very clear she is against both the Church and the social norm. Wife of Bath's Tale

Her tale is of a knight who does an injustice by raping a woman. As punishment, the queen gives him one year to find, "what woman most desire," and if he fails he is to be killed. He seeks the answer from an old hag, who provides him with the life saving answer, yet also tricks him into marrying her. The correct response is power over men and in turn this is what the hag receives in her marriage to the knight. The Friar's Tale

The Friar's Tale is about a corrupt summoner. He collects money from sinners yet ironically keeps it for himself. On his journey he meets a man. He lies to this man and claims he is a bailiff. After some discussion, the two men decide to be "brothers forever." As they spend more time, they begin to become more honest with one another. They learn that they both lead lives of extortion and theft. The man explains that he makes his living by taking anything that anyone will give to him. He soon reveals he is the devil. After a series of events, the summoner tries to take advantage of an old maid and it backfires and she gives him to the devil. The devil then takes the summoner to hell, where, according to the friar, he belongs. Summoner's Tale

This prologue conveys the anger the summoner feels towards the friar. The summoner has become enraged due to the insulting tale of the friar. He responds by stating everyone knows that all friars end up in hell and that they have a special place up the Devil's butt. The Summoner's Tale

The summoner then goes on to tell an equally insulting tale of a corrupt friar. The friar goes around town begging for money for the church. He goes to the house of a sick old man named Thomas and is upset with him for not giving enough money recently. Flirting with Thomas's wife, claiming to have revelations, and heckling Thomas for money, he begins to overstay his welcome. Then he reprimands Thomas about anger through various tales of high ranked men being foolish due to anger. Thomas explains he has a gift for the friar, but it is laying beneath him. The friar reaches beneath Thomas and Thomas lets out a big fart. Double Entendres Like many of Chaucer’s other tales, the Reeve’s Tale features a few double entendres. The brass coin Simpkin receives as a marriage dowry stands as one of the simplest. The coin is still a coin but not one made of an expensive metal just like the wife is a base-born daughter of a priest. Both could be valuable if not for a small flaw in their being.
The entire plot of the Reeve’s Tale becomes a pun. Two students set out “to grind their flour at Simpkin’s mill…” (Lancashire 160) The Just Ending A double entendre also gives the Reeve’s Tale its just ending. The miller and the clerks both get mutual use of the others “Flour” before both returning to their original owner before being transformed. Simpkin steals the clerks’ flower, which his wife then bakes into cakes. The clerks sleep with both the women in Simpkin’s life and leave them “plumped.” (Coghill 119) The Tale as a Fragment The Cook’s Tale is a fragment. Critics hold three main explanations for why Chaucer did not complete it. The first is that he decided a fragment somehow fit Group A thematically. Others think that Chaucer either did not want to finish the tale or did not get the chance. Regardless, the tale ends suddenly and the scribe of one manuscript chooses to add the note "of the Cook's Tale Chaucer made no more." (Coghill 122) Critical Speculation Critics have guessed how the story would continue if Chaucer had continued it. The story would either continue into the playful realm of carnival-like play or turn the main character Perkyn into a negative example of corruption. The later would reflect both the Miller's and Reeve's tales which feature immoral characters. The Scribe's Note The first manuscript containing the note was written in five ink shades. The note was written in the lightest of the brown inks which the scribe also uses for Group B. This implies that the scribe wrote the note right before starting a new section. Although not concrete evidence, this change in ink might show that the scribe thought he could find more of the tale but failed. The Knight The Knight's Tale The Miller's Prologue The Miller's Tale

John thinks of Nicholas as his friend and a nice guy, but he ends up seducing John's wife.

Absalon is a member of the church and yet he spends his time chasing after women. Wife of Bath

Alisoun is a woman and there are certain expectations that she is supposed to abide by, but she defies them.

Knight's should be chivalrous, but in her tale, the Knight is a rapist. The Reeve's Tale

Chaucer uses double entendres to say one thing but in reality mean another The Friar's Tale

A summoner's job is to collect fines from sinners, yet he is lying, cheating, and stealing.

The Devil would typically be thought of as the antagonist, but he ends up bringing justice. The Summoner's Tale

The money given to the Friar for the church is supposed to be charity, but he goes around begging and extorting people for money. The Knight's Tale

The Knight's Tale is an exception to this idea. It doesn't show the harsh reality that the other stories reveal, because the God's intervened and controlled fate. The other stories have elements of fantasy, but ones that can be realistically explained. The Miller's Tale

Absalon is a parish clerk and as head of the church he should not be chasing around women the way that he is. He shows that member's of the church don't take their devotion to God seriously. The Wife of Baths Alisoun rebels against the
patriarchal society that
the church creates. The Reeve's Tale The Miller's wife was the daughter of the town priest.

The Miller's daughter willing has premarital sex demonstrating her lack commitment to church laws. The Friar's Tale and The Summoner's Tale

Both tales have a figure of the church as a main character. Both the friar and the summoner take advantage of their authority and represent corruption in the church.

Also they use their stories to insult each other, making both of them appear immature. The Knight's Tale

Palamon, Arcite, and Emily all have their wishes fulfilled by the Gods at the end of the story. They don't necessarily get what they want, but they get what they asked for. The Friar's Tale

The Summoner has been ironically sinning. His plan to take money from a woman backfired and in the end the Devil takes him away to Hell. The Miller's Tale

All the characters get what they deserve. The tale has a very karmic ending. The Summoner's Tale

The Friar was being greedy and rude and wants Thomas to give money solely to him and not split between the twelve friars. Thomas farts on his hand as gift that cannot be split twelve ways. He got a rude gesture in return for all of his rudeness towards Thomas and the villagers. The Cook's Tale

Although the cook's tale doesn't have an ending it does demonstrates Chaucer's mastery of providing his audience with fulfillment through a just ending. The lack of fulfillment is one of the most obvious clues that Chaucer never finished the story. Through juxtaposition, the Cook's Tale accentuates the endings of the other stories. The knight tells a courtly romance concerning two friends in competition for a perfect maiden's hand. The roman gods play a pivotal role in the story by influence the wheel of fortune. Fate also plays a heavy role in the story and Chaucer actually capitalizes the word to imply it is a character. Out of every character we meet in The Canterbury Tales, the knight stands out as the truest to the position he holds. The Knight takes the honor code of chivalry seriously and has been test in battle. His tale of courtly loves reflects that. The miller rudely interrupts the host who attempts to find the next story teller. At the time of telling, the miller is very intoxicated. His aim is to challenge the Knight's Tale with his view on love and marriage. The Miller's Tale In comparison to the Knight's Tale, the Miller's Tale is crude, comical, and callous. The tale features a gullible carpenter, a con-man masquerading as an academic, a wife who wants a better match, and a parish clerk who looks for love in all the wrong places. The Miller's Tale is Chaucer's first fabliau in his masterpiece.
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