The Nun's Priest's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Compare and contrast the methods of argument that Pertelote and Chanticleer use to defend their interpretations of dreams.

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In the Nun's Priest's Tale, one of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Pertelote and Chanticleer both find the interpretations of dreams a suitable topic about which to argue, but they apply different processes to their argumentation.

For example, both Pertolete and Chanticleer appear to take dreams seriously enough to warrant a proper argument, but they differ in their explanations for the dream Chanticleer brings up for discussion. When Chanticleer first brings up the subject of his bad dream, which frightens him with its violent prophesy, Pertelote dismisses his fear with a physiological explanation: overeating. Chanticleer disagrees with Pertelote because he believes the stories he has heard that have taught him about the prophecies that dreams can foretell. Clearly, Chanticleer has a more imaginative way of interpreting dreams than Pertolete, whose focus is on the pragmatic.

Additionally, both Pertolete and Chanticleer support their arguments with the ideas of other thinkers, but they differ in their sources. Pertolete quotes Cato, a Roman statesman and Stoic, to support her argument, while Chanticleer refers to a general group of men that he cannot name specifically. Though both Pertolete and Chanticleer acknowledge what they have learned from others about the interpretation of dreams, Pertolete's ability to name a philosopher elevates her argument to a position higher than Chanticleer's.

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Pertelote wants her man to be a man. She wishes to disgard the dream simply as a dream with no meaning. She even suggests that poor indigestion has actually caused his dream.

"Now you have lost my heart, lost all my love.
I cannot love a coward, that I swear!"

Chanticleer obviously has more at stake; the dream foreshadows his demise. Chanticleer counters by showing numerous stories throughout history where dreams were ignored and people died.

"...To wind up, let me say just this to you:
To me this dream portends adversity."

Of course, it's Chanticleer's love for Pertelote that eventually guides his decision to ignore the dream.

"When I look on the beauty of your face,
And see those scarlet circles round your eyes,
Then all the terror that affrights me dies."

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