The Nun's Priest's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Start Free Trial

Editor's Choice

What is the role of the Nun's Priest in The Canterbury Tales?

Quick answer:

The Nun’s Priest tells a tale of a rooster and hen that are in love. The hen is suspicious of her lover’s frequent absences, and so she sends him to his death by telling him that he has been too long away from her. The story is about the power of temptation and how it can lead one to do things that they normally would not do.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Nun’s Priest’s Tale" is that of Chanticleer and Pertelote, the cockerel and his favorite hen wife. Chanticleer awakes from a frightful dream about a beast trying to kill him, alerting Pertelote to his anxiety. She dismisses his fears as ridiculous, suggesting that perhaps he just ate too much.

When the fox arrives the next morning, he lies and says he only came to hear Chanticleer’s beautiful call. Being flattered, Chanticleer closes his eyes to sing, after which the fox snatches him and runs away.

Chanticleer is able to outsmart the fox by suggesting that the fox insult all the people who are chasing the pair of them. Chanticleer then escapes to a high perch in a tree, where he is now immune to the fox’s flattery.

As the other Educator says, the irony of this tale comes when the Host flatters the nun’s priest’s physique, insinuating that he would need seventeen “hens” to satisfy such a manhood if the man were not a priest. This directly contradicts the message of the story, which is to avoid succumbing to flattery.

As for the priest’s role, the narrator states that he has accompanied the Prioress and her nun on the pilgrimage. He is one of three priests who accompany the Prioress, but he is the only one who tells his own tale.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The role of the nun's priest (there are three priests that ride with a nun who is not mentioned any further) is to tell the story of Chanticleer, the rooster.  The priest is asked to tell a light, humorous story after the Monk's long and grim litany of stories about people who fell from glory.  The priest cheerfully complies with his tale of Chanticleer who almost is killed by a wily fox who flatters Chanticleer.  Chanticleer is able to save himself by using the same tactic on the fox - he tells the fox to simply tell the other barnyard creatures that they aren't as swift as he is and they should give up their chase.  After the story, the host praises the priest for his story and compliments him on his muscular, fit build.  The irony here is that the priest told a story about the perils of flattery and then is flattered by the host.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial