17: The Squire's Tale Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 738

Summary
The Host invites the Squire to tell a love story, assuming the youth to be knowledgeable in such matters. The Squire says he really does not know that much, but he agrees to tell a story.

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The First Part: In the land of the Tatars there lived a noble and famous king, called Cambiuskan, who possessed every conceivable virtue and knightly trait. Cambiuskan and his queen had two sons and a gorgeous young daughter, Canace.

The story begins in the twentieth year of Cambiuskan's reign. In the early spring, he announces his birthday feast, as was his custom. As the glorious feast begins, the guests are suddenly amazed to see a knight on a brass horse, wearing a bare sword, ride into the hall. On his thumb is a marvelous gold ring, and he is holding a large glass mirror in his hand.

Eloquently, the mysterious knight addresses Cambiuskan, saying that he brings the gifts on behalf of his leige lord, the King of Arabia and India. He then explains the marvelous gifts. The wonderous horse will ride or even fly the king anywhere he wants to go. It can even make itself invisible. The sword will cut through armor; no man it wounds will ever be healed unless the king lays the flat of the magical sword upon the wound he has inflicted.

The ring is for Canace. It will enable her to understand the language of birds and to decipher the uses of all healing herbs. She will have these powers whenever she wears the ring on her person. The mirror will allow her to see clearly any treachery in the heart of a man who courts her.

The Second Part: Everyone at the feast marvels at the gifts except Canace, who retires early. Next morning she rises at dawn and dresses to walk in the lovely spring morning. Wearing the magical ring, she could understand the songs of the birds.

As Canace strolls along, she hears the pitiful wailing of a female falcon who is bleeding from her self-inflicted wounds. The tender-hearted Canace understands that the bird is suffering terribly and has the bird tell her story.

It turns out that the lovely lady falcon has fallen in love with a noble male who has falsely pledged his undying love for her. They lived together joyfully for a time, but now her mate has deserted her and has fallen madly in love with a kite. The kite has held the male falcon's love, and the female is absolutely desolate without him. Grief and anger at her plight have caused her to tear her own flesh.

Canace takes the falcon to her quarters, bandages her wounds, and builds her a lovely cage which she keeps above the head of her bed. The female falcon begins to heal, but she continues her grieving.

The Squire here leaves Canace and promises to tell about Cambiuskan with his magic horse and enchanted sword.

The Third Part: One sentence fragment . . . and the Squire's story stops. Chaucer never completed it.

The Franklin greatly admires the Squire's obvious education and his eloquence in storytelling. He says he wishes that he could persuade his own son to take his education more seriously and leave off gambling. He also wishes the boy were as courteous as the young squire. The Host intrudes to demand that the Franklin tell his tale.

Discussion and Analysis
The prologue to the tale refers back to the deceitful nature of women and looks ahead to a tale of pure and ideal love.

Though it is incomplete, The Squire's Tale is obviously going to be a romance. All indications are that it would have been an intricate one with several plot threads and several important characters.

The interesting device of setting a story within a story is used with the falcon's tale of an unfaithful lover. This insertion is probably meant either to foreshadow or to contrast with the love story planned for Canace.

Like others of the tales Chaucer invented, this one has roots in both French and English literature, but unlike any other of Chaucer's stories, The Squire's Tale reveals considerable Oriental influence. This adds an exotic quality absent in the other tales.

There is little mystery, however, as regards the theme of this narration. It strongly promises to deal with wonders, constancy in love, and virtuous character. Ideal love will no doubt triumph in the end.

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18: The Franklin's Tale Summary and Analysis