In "the prologue"of the canterbury tales what are the guidelines surrounding the contest they agree to?

jenniebloom | Student

(Sorry I meant to give 4 stars!)

Twenty- nine Pilgrims are gathered at an inn to dine and sleep, before embarking on a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury in England.

Early next morning their genial and convivial host proposes that to entertain each other and pass the time on the long, slow horseback journey to Canterbury, they will each tell four tales : two on the way and two returning.  At his own cost, the host will guide them to Canterbury.  He will judge the best story teller, according to the criteria of "best sense" and and most amusing delivery. His decision will be final.  If, on their journey, anyone contradicts him or interrupts the teller, their penalty will be paying for everything that needs to  be bought by the company (such as food  drinks and shelter  for themselves and their horses).

The  winner of the competition will receive the prize of free supper at the host's inn upon their return.  This will be paid for by the other twenty -eight competitors.

Since the host is adjudicating, he will not tell a tale.  They will decide  the first narrator, not by their rank in society, but by whoever draws a short straw.

The Knight draws the first short straw, and so begins the cometition.  After this, the host invites the monk, but the Miller, who is drunk insists upon telling the next and the host wisely concedes.  The Miller announces that he will tell  a comic story of an adultery.  He is interrupted by the Reeve, who fears that the story will not be appropriate in mixed company.  Everyone is entertained, except the reeve, who feels personally slighted and takes revenge by telling the next story about how a cheating miller was tricked by two clerks.

The Cook is the next volunteer, but therafter, the host reclaims some control of the competion.  Since there are no volunteers, he invites the Man of Law (lawyer) to tell the next story.   The Wife of Bath launches into the next tale before being asked. As the competition gathers momentum many storytellers are eager to refute or add to the previous tale.  The host only intervenes when he needs to coax a reticent member of the company or rebuke a reluctant non-contributor.

There are only twenty-four completed stories, so the outcome and success of the competition (and whether anyone incurs a penalty) is unknown.

Read the study guide:
The Canterbury Tales

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