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Please refer to several tales for this question. What is the purpose of tale telling in...

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ilovecats2 | Honors

Posted December 10, 2011 at 11:36 PM via web

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Please refer to several tales for this question. What is the purpose of tale telling in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales?

Please answer based off of these tales:

The General Prologue

The Knight's Tale

The Miller's Prologue and Tale

The Reeve's Prologue and Tale

The Cook's Prologue and Tale

The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale

The Clerk's Prologue and Tale

The Clerk's Envoy

The Merchant's Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

The Squire's Introduction and Tale

The Franklin's Prologue and Tale

The Pardoner's Introduction, Prologue, and Tale

The Prioress's Prologue and Tale

Sir Thopas (Prologue, Tale, and the Host's Interruption)

The Nun's Priest's Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue and Tale.

The Parson's Prologue

The Parson's Tale

Chaucer's Retraction

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 15, 2011 at 6:40 AM (Answer #1)

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[eNotes editors are only permitted to answer one question per posting. Additional postings should be submitted separately. We also have a limited space in which to write, and this would be more like a term paper rather than a short answer.]

In general, the tale telling in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is a structural device that the author used in order to compare the various kinds of people on a pilgrimage. It is, in fact, the only place (a pilgrimage) during Chaucer's time where people from all walks of life, social standings, careers, etc., would gather together—to travel to a holy shrine to pay homage to God.

However, each of the tales is used to share specific details about the men (or women) on the pilgrimage, based upon their tales. A number of them deal with the idea of marriage.

For instance, in "The Wife of Bath's Tale," the Wife, who is a religious but bawdy kind of woman, has been married several times, outliving each husband. She likes marriage and sex, but she is no longer young and attractive, so she tells a story about a man who is forced to marry an old, unattractive woman, but who finds great happiness. This is the message she is trying to convey, but we find that she is also a good woman.

In "The Franklin's Tale," we hear the story of a devoted husband and wife. She makes an idle, innocent comment that an unscrupulous admirer (Aurelius) tries to use to make her sleep with him. Her husband is supportive and helps her to decide what to do. Arveragus...

...calmly says that in good conscience [Dorigen] must go and keep her promise to Aurelius.

The woman and her husband greatly impress the admirer, and he withdraws his plan to force Dorigen into an adulterous affair.

"The Cleric's Tale" is about a man forever checking on his wife's devotion. Walter, The Marquis of Saluzzo, marries Griselda. She is a peasant woman, and after they are wed, he forever "tests" her to see if she will honor...

...her agreement to obey him implicitly and never to grumble about his decisions.

And while he is unkind in doing so, his wife never wavers and he is comforted by her dedication; she is rewarded in the end.

On the other hand, "The Merchant's Tale" is a story about a wife who is extremely unfaithful. This story is about men whose wives have cheated on them. We get a clearer sense of the Merchant than we might have had before the tale.

From each tale, we learn specific details from the stories that reflect clearly on the speaker of the tale. This is Chaucer's idea: to search through each story to learn more about the storyteller, and thereby, to understand the speaker's priorities. Chaucer was also known as a "student of human nature," and while he uses the stories to also ridicule some servants of the Roman Catholic Church who are less than devoted to their religious calling (the Friar, the Monk, the Pardoner, etc.), he also brings to the reader's attention the merits of some of these special individuals simply by studying the people of his time.

Chaucer entertains, he passes judgment, and he provides the reader with an amazing cross-section of society at that time.

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