The Nun's Priest's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Can you give an example of an apostrophe from the Nun's Priest's Tale?

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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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What is an example of an apostrophe from the "Nun's Priest's Tale" in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales?

The nun's priest, Sir John, is called upon by one of the pilgrims to tell a happy story since he feels such things are "gladsome" and beneficial to all.  So, the priest, who is the servant of the Prioress, apparently a maudlin, silly woman, seems to have a rather low opinion of the women around whom he is forced to live at the convent as he tells his tale of the handsome rooster Chanticleer.

This Chanticleer is a beautiful fowl surrounded by hens, who are like sisters to him.  Among them is a beautiful hen that he loves named Pertelote.

He loved her so that all was well with him.
But such a joy it was to hear them sing,
Whenever the bright sun began to spring,
In sweet accord, (ll.46-49)

Chanticleer loves her so much that he listens to her rather than heed his portentous dream of a yellow-red creature with black-tipped ears making "a feast upon [his] body." But, Pertelote dismisses his fears as indigestion and suggests that he eat some herbs. Chanticleer then illustrates the importance of dreams with an example of a man who awoke from a dream that his friend called out to him that he would be murdered, and the dream was fulfilled. The man, who had returned to sleep, awoke in the morning and went to the place his friend had slept and found him gone.  He searched for his friend in a cart covered with hay as he had dreamt and found the man dead.  In line 172, Chanticleer exclaims,

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

"O Blessed God" is an example of apostrophe because it is an address to a being who is absent as though he is present and able to respond to the address.

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