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The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Provide a commentary for the following passages from "The Cook's Tale": ll. 4327–38: The Cook reacts to the Reeve’s Tale; ll. 4365–82: Perkin and his "meinee." Identify the speaker, comment on the themes, and examine the relationship to other parts of the text.

The first passage from "The Cook's Tale" can be identified by the speaker. It’s the Cook of London, named Roger. Roger continues the theme of comeuppance. The passage uses biblical language by quoting the Israeli King Salomon. The second passage uses biblical language by referencing honey. The second passage can be identified by the speaker as well. The speaker is, once again, the Cook. The themes include pleasure and merriment.

Expert Answers

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For the first passage, you can identify the passage by the speaker as the titular Cook, whose name is Roger. You can make the identification by consulting the two sentences prior to the passage you're asking about. Remember, the section begins with the Cook experiencing so much “joye” that he thinks the Reve “clawed him on the bak.” The “he” in line 4327 is the cook. His “Ha! Ha!” is the verbal expression of the “joye.”

For themes, you might want to think about how the Cook continues the theme of comeuppance. There are numerous instances in which Roger relays his belief that the Miller got what was coming to him. Roger seems to reinforce the idea that the Miller’s tribulations were his own fault. If he didn’t cheat people—if he didn’t invite the two young men to stay in his house—his daughter, his wife, and himself might have experienced different fates.

To make his point, Roger seems to enlist biblical language. In line 4330, he appears to bring up the biblical King Salomon, who said something along the lines of: Do not invite every man into your home. Again, if the miller was more discerning and less deceptive, he might be in a less compromised situation.

As for the second passage, the speaker is also Roger. Again, if you look at what comes before the passage in question, it tells you that it’s the Cook who’s speaking. Of course, you could also discern that it’s the Cook who’s telling the story, since the name of the tale is “The Cook’s Tale.”

The theme of this passage appears to be revelry and merriment. It focuses on an attractive cook’s apprentice and all of the rebel rousing he partakes in. According to Chaucer, this man, whose name is Perkyn Revelour, “was as ful of love and paramour / As is the hyve ful of hony sweete.” To translate: Perkyn had many loves and lovers. He was as sweet as a hive full of honey.

As with the first passage, the second passage also has a hint of biblical language. Honey comes up quite often in the Bible. It typically symbolizes abundance and plenty.

This passage on Perkyn helps set the stage for what’s to come. As you might recall, the boisterous Perkyn loses his job and moves in with a pleasure-seeking couple.

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