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The Prioress' Tale

Part of Chaucer's Canterberry Tales, The Prioress tells her story after the Shipman. It can be found on pages 132-138.

Emilie S

on 29 December 2012

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Transcript of The Prioress' Tale

By Emilie Schaefer The Prioress' Tale Prioress: A woman in charge of a certain orders of nuns. The woman would be next in rank to an abbess. Behavior: The Prioress' Prologue: But Of Course... The Tale. Fear. "Her table manners were admirable: she allowed no crumb to fall from her lips, nor did she wet her fingers deeply in her sauce; she knew exactly how to carry the food to her mouth and made sure that no drops spilled upon her breast. She was very much interested in etiquette." After the Shipman ends his story, our Host kindly asks the Prioress if she is ready to tell her tale. She says "Gladly" And begins her story by saying a prayer to the Virgin Mary. [Please Don't Read Your Character List Unless Instructed To] The Jews take notice of the little boy singing Mary's song through the ghetto on his way to school. They think he's really annoying. "The poor widow waited all night for her little child, but he did not return. Therefore, as soon as it was daylight, she sought him at school and elsewhere, her face pale with fear." The End: The Prioress ends her tale by Praying to "Hugh of Lincoln" who was "also slain by cursed Jews." General Prologue: Bottom Page 3, Top Page 4. The Prologue: Page 132-133 Tale: 134-138 Julie Andrews Why does Chaucer go into all this detail about table manners, of all things? Blonde Hair Blue Eyes HUGE Forehead Small Red Lips {Not Much Of A Description...} He Continues To Say.... "So carefully did she wipe her lips that no trace of grease could be seen in her cup when she had drunk from it. She reached for her food very daintily, and truly she was very merry, with pleasant disposition and amiable manner." Suggests that the Prioress mingles with the upper class often? (Goes on Pilgrimages Often?) Maybe the Prioress is trying to advance up the social ladder? In her prayer, she basically asks Mary to help her tell the story in a way that will impact the other pilgrims. She prays that her tale will help glorify Mary and her Holy Son.

"My ability is so much too weak, oh blessed Queen, to declare Thy great worth adequately that I cannot sustain the burden. But I shall do just as a child of twelve months or less who can scarcely utter one word; and, therefore, I pray Thee, guide this song which I shall sing of thee." This will make sense after I explain the story. [But Feel Free To Look At Your "Vocab & History" List All The Time] The Story is set in Asia, In a large city populated by mostly Christians. In the middle of the city, there is a Jewry, which was apparently established for "evil purposes of usury and excessive gain, which are hateful to Christ and his people." People walked through the Ghetto to get to places on the other side. "For it was open and unlocked at either end." And... At the far end of the Ghetto, there is a little Christian school. So.... All the little Christian kids have to walk through the Ghetto twice a day to get to and from school. Among these children, there is a cute little choirboy who is the son of a widow. We don't get the little boy's name, but we find out that he is 7 years old. This little boy is taught the habit of kneeling whenever he sees an image of Christ's Mother. He does this out of respect for his own mother, because that's what she taught him to do. He loves his mommy very much, and wants to make her happy. He is already familiar with the "Ave Maria" which is a popular song that praises Mary. For some reason, this reminds our story teller of Saint Nicholas when he was a child. [Now, someone read the the definition for Saint Nicholas] ....Beautiful....
Anyone Need A Tissue? Alright... So the little boy is sitting at school, studying his primer book when he hears some other children singing the Alma Redemptoris. Immediately, He loves the song, and wants to learn it really really bad... but he couldn't understand the Latin words. :( >Vocab words are colored Yellow.
>Characters are colored Pink. So... He begs his older friend to tell him what the song means.

"Many times upon his bare knees he begged his comrade to explain this and make it clear to him." His friend tells him that the song is in honor of Mary, which makes the little boy want to learn it even more! The little boy says: "Now, certainly, I shall work my hardest to memorize it all before Christmas is over. Though I may be punished for not learning my primer, and even may be beaten 3 times in one hour, I am going to learn it in honor of our Lady!" Is this not the cutest thing ever? ....minus the getting beaten thing. His friend agrees to teach him the lyrics to the song every day on the way home from school, and so the little boy learns it by heart. <3 So, Satan steps in and tells the Jews to kill the little brat. They hire a murderer, who has a hiding place in the ally... When the little boy is walking home from school, the dude grabs him and cuts his throat. Then. He throws him in a ditch.

Filled with poop. The widow finds out that her son was last seen in the Jewry, and rushes to find him. She is very worried. Every Jew in the ghetto tells her "No." when she asks if they have seen her child. She is desperate, and cries out to Mary to help her find her son...
Mary guides her to the privy near is body. The mother is weeping, when all of the sudden... Her child begins to sing the Alma Redemptoris. He sings so loud, that all the christian people in the city gather around the privy to see him. The Provost is summoned, who imprisons all the Jews. The Little Choir Boy... who is still singing... is carried through the streets and taken to the nearest Abbey. Miracle Zombie Child The Provost gives death sentences to all of the Jews who were in on the little boy's murder. "With torture and shameful death for each. He would not tolerate such evil doing." "Evil Shall Have What Evil Deserves." -Provost ...Therefore he had them drawn by wild horses, and afterwards he hanged them according to law. [Somebody read the definition to "Being Drawn By Wild Horses" out loud] MEANWHILE... The little boy is still singing O Alma Redemptoris Mater and everyone is amazed. Finally... The Abbot asks the boy: "how are you able to sing when you're obviously dead?" The child stops singing and responds to the holy man's question. He says: "My throat was cut down to the bone. And according to natural law, I should indeed have died some time ago." "For the Honor of His (Jesus') dear Mother I am still able to sing O Alma loudly and clearly." "When it happened that I lost my life, she came to me and bade that I should sing this song even as I died, as you have heard me do." "When I began to sing, it seemed to me that she placed a kernel upon my tongue." "Therefore I sing, and certainly I must sing, in honor of that blessed, generous Maid until the kernel is taken from my tongue." HOLD UP... What is a "Kernel?" ...Anyone? So basically... When the little boy is dying, Mary comes to him and allows him to keep singing by placing a pearl on his tongue. Then Mary actually speaks to him, which you can now read about on your character sheet. (: The Abbot then takes the kernel from the boy's tongue and allows him to die. Then he falls down prostrate on the ground. Everyone in the whole convent is weeping on the floor. They put the child's body in a tomb of clear marble The Prioress Is Obviously trying to draw up emotions for her listeners. [Now, someone read the vocab definition for Hugh of Lincoln.] Analysis: The Genre of the tale is "Miracle of the Virgin." Its pretty obvious that the tale falls under this genre because the Virgin Mary came to the little boy and kept him singing, which was a miracle. Other evidence includes the prioress' prayer to Mary in the prologue, When the widow is led to her son after crying to Mary for help, and when the Abbot witnesses Mary's miracle. It makes sense that the Prioress would tell this specific tale. As you read about in the "Hugh of Lincoln" definition, many people went on pilgrimages to to see this young martyr's tomb. This is most likely what the Prioress is doing. Also, the Prioress' would be more apt to tell a story about Mary because she leads a convent of mostly women. She is accustomed to asking Mary for help. Like we observed earlier, The prioress overuses many details in her story to make us emotional about the little boy's death. One reason for this, may be to reach some other members on the pilgrimage who are non-christian, such as the knight, and try to convert them to Christianity. Another reason for this would be that the Prioress is just trying to pass along the Christian hatred of the Jews. In Medieval England, Christians mainly told stories as to keep their own religion looking better than the others, especially against Judaism. Themes: Clearly, the main theme of the story is "Jews are bad" Yet, there is an underlying theme about the power of words/ speaking. ...The little boy is killed because of his love for singing. This shows what happens to people who chose to "open their mouths at the wrong time." (relates to the tales of the Manciple and Nun's Priest) Although... it is kind of ironic that the Prioress is described as having such a tender heart, yet describes other human beings with immense scorn. General Prologue: "She was so kind and so full of pity that she would weep if she saw a dead or bleeding mouse caught in a trap."

..."Indeed everything with her was tenderness and a soft heart." "Wears a broach inscribed with the capital letter A, surmounted by a crown and the phrase: Amor Vincit Omnia: Love Conquers All." Also, Take good care of your children! Don't let them walk through scary streets alone! love them and cherish them, because they won't be small and innocent forever. Oh, and: don't underestimate the power of prayer. Because sometimes they are answered in a big way. Don't be afraid to pronounce your faith to others. No matter how scary or mean or hateful they are towards you. At the end of the story, everyone is speechless until the Host cracks a few jokes to break the seriousness. FIN. Why Do The Good Die Young? And Does Evil Ever Really Win In The End?
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