In the pompous, self-important figure of the cockerel Chauntecleer, "The Nun's Priest's Tale" satirizes scholasticism. This is the name given to the dominant school of philosophy in Medieval Europe. Scholasticism is incredibly difficult to explain—and even harder to understand—but it was characterized by a style of theorizing that critics regarded as pedantic, hair-splitting, and overly concerned with narrow, precise definitions of seemingly abstract concepts. To its critics, scholasticism said nothing about the world around us; it simply told us what was going on in the minds of monks and scholars isolated from the outside world in their monasteries and universities.
In his lengthy digression on the subject of dreams, Chauntecleer parades his shallow learning by invoking numerous biblical, mythical, and academic sources. But his scholastic style of argument is then completely undermined by his sexual desires—he is a rooster, after all—which makes him forget his fear of dreams. In other words, the pedantic, abstract logic of scholasticism has collided with the real world, showing itself to have little or nothing to say about life as it is actually lived.