The Canterbury Tales 14: The Summoner's Tale Summary and Analysis
by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download The Canterbury Tales Study Guide

Subscribe Now

14: The Summoner's Tale Summary and Analysis

The pilgrim Summoner is so enraged at the condemnation of the Friar that he immediately tells an evil little joke about an angel touring a friar around hell. When the visiting friar comments that he sees no friars in hell, the angel takes him directly to Satan who reveals 20,000 friars hiding in his ass, the idea being that Satan and friars are extremely close. He then tells his tale.

There was once a very greedy friar who was licensed to beg and preach in a particular district. He would pretend to have his scribe record all the names of those who donated so that his monastery could pray for them, but the names were erased as soon as he was out of sight.

On the day this story takes place, the friar calls on one of his most generous benefactors whom he finds full of anger and very ill. The friar pretends concern and swears that he and all his brother friars have been praying for Thomas to recover. He delivers a hypocritical sermon on the great virtue in fasting, interpreting the scriptures to suit his purposes, in order to persuade Thomas to make another large donation.

The furious Thomas remarks that he cannot understand why his health has not improved with all the money he has donated for prayers (which he seems to suspect have never been offered). In reply, the friar delivers a second sermon on the terrible fate which befell famous kings who were wrathful and angry. The friar concludes by urging Thomas to give generously to the dear, poor monks who have prayed for him.

Thomas appears to agree. He says he will give the monastery something very special which he has hidden in his rectum. He instructs the friar to reach under his buttocks to retrieve the treasure. When the greedy, avaricious friar complies, Thomas expels gas loudly into the friar's hand and tells him to take that benefice and divide it with his fellow monks.

The infuriated Friar John rushes to the lord of the village for retribution. But the nobleman is so fascinated with the problem of how the fart could possibly be divided into even parts that he totally ignores the problem of retribution.


(The entire section is 560 words.)