What is the theme of "The Cook's Tale" in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales?

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hmartin17 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Cook's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales is up for debate because Chaucer left it unfinished. "The Cook's Tale" comes directly after the Reeve and Miller's stories, in which the two men insult each other's professions and tell of debauchery and mischief. The Cook, now so drunk he has fallen off his horse, begins his own tale of the same sort.

He speaks of an apprentice named Perkin Reveler, who loves to gamble with dice. He steals money from his master and spends it all. He parties and is a total ladies' man. Just after the master fires Perkin, the story ends. Taken at face value, it seems the moral of the story is that bad behavior is punished, but the Cook isn't known for his good behavior, and the next lines show Perkin, rather than changing his ways, finds a friend who is equally corrupt! We cannot speculate what happens next to Perkin, but based on the Reeve and Miller's stories, it is clear he is involved in sinful activities and the story will likely be full of jokes and situational irony. 

Some interpret Perkin as Adam, the master as God, and "The Cook's Tale" as a story of Adam being kicked out of Eden. If this is the case, the main theme would be the sinfulness and corruption of mankind. Other speculated themes could be the fickleness and wildness of youth, and the benefits and costs of gambling.

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The Canterbury Tales

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