The Nun's Priest's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Provide an example of apostrophe from the Nun's Priest's Tale.

In The Nun's Priest's Tale, there are two examples of apostrophe. The first is addressed to a "destiny" figure, i.e. the idea that Chanticleer's going to be killed and eaten by the fox was inevitable; while the second example is addressed to Venus, goddess of love and pleasure, who the speaker thinks should have saved Chanticleer from his fate. Your browser does not support the IFRAME tag. Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Notes | Barron's Booknotes Free Study Guide-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Plot Summary

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A further example of an apostrophe in The Nun's Priest's Tale comes after the unfortunate Chanticleer's been grabbed by the cunning fox and dragged away to be killed and eaten:

O destinee, that mayst nat been eschewed!

Loosely translated, this means "O destiny, you can't be avoided." The figure of destiny's being addressed in this extract, but of course isn't present. Hence this is an example of an apostrophe. The speaker's implying that Chanticleer's being taken by the wily fox was always destined to happen.

A couple of lines further on we have yet another apostrophe, this time addressed to Venus, the Roman goddess of love and pleasure. The speaker wants to know why Venus appears to have abandoned one of her own servants and allowed him to be killed by the fox:

O Venus, that art goddess of pleasánce, Since that thy servant was this Chanticleer, And in thy service did all his powér, More for delight, than world to multiply, Why wilt thou suffer him on thy day to die?

In other words, Chanticleer, by his fathering of numerous chicks, has been a loyal and faithful servant to the goddess of love. The speaker thinks it only right and proper, then, that she should at least try to save him.

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First, you need to remember what an apostrophe is in literary terms.  An apostrophe is a passage in a text in which a character who is actually "present" addresses a person or an entity that is not physically present in the same place where the speaker is.

In the Nun's Priest's Tale, the rooster, Chanticleer, is telling his story about why it is important to take dreams seriously.  He describes the traveler who dreamed of his friend being murdered.  The traveler ignored the dream at first, but then found out that his friend had been murdered in exactly the way the dream said.

Having told this story, Chanticleer says

“O Blessed God, Who art so true and deep!
Lo, how Thou dost turn murder out alway!

This is an example of apostrophe.  God is not physically present when Chanticleer is speaking.  So when Chanticleer addresses him, it is an example of apostrophe.

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