Canterbury Tales Study Guides

  • The Canterbury Tales

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    The Caterbury Tales is a collection of tales written in the 14th century by Geoffrey Chaucer. The tales are written from the voices of various travelers on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket Canterbury Cathedral as part of a story-telling competition. Most of the tales are written in verse, many are farcical and satirize various aspects of English life at the time such as the power of the church and class structure.

  • The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale

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    "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is a story in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer with themes of chivalry, justice and feminism. After raping a maiden, a knight is offered clemency if, after a year of searching, he can answer the question of what women want most. Finally he makes a bargain with an old hag, who offers him the answer: women want sovereignty over husbands. In return, the knight must marry the hag, which he does, and after respecting her freedom, she becomes young and beautiful.

  • The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue

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    "The Wife of Bath's Prologue" is a prologue to the comparatively shorter story "The Wife of Bath's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The wife of bath's, Alyson, is one of the most developed characters in The Canterbury Tales, with a long back-story of four different marriages. Throughout her marriages, Alyson controls her husbands, dominating them sexually and attacking aspects of patriarchy. The text both employs and refutes aspects of antifeminism prominent at the time.

  • The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale

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    "The Second Nun's Tale" is a story in The Cantebury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer told by a pious monk about Saint Cecilia who was martyred. Cecelia requires her husband, Valerian, to convert to Christianity so she can remain pure. Valerian does so and when the Roman prefect, Almachius, discovers this, he orders him to worship the Roman god Jupiter. Valerian refuses and is executed. Cecilia is sentenced to being boiled alive but miraculously survives, surviving a beheading as well and continuing to preach Christianity.

  • The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale

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    "The Reeve's Tale" is a farcical story from The Cantebury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Simkin is a miller who steels grain from his customers and so John and Aleyn try to catch him in the act. John and Aleyn are force to stay at his house for the night and both have sex with his daughter, Malyne, who gives them bread made from grain stolen from them. Simkin is enraged, but is accidently clubbed by his wife and the two other men escape unscathed.

  • The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale

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    "The Knight's Tale" is a tale in The Cantebury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer with themes of fate, strife, chivalry and courtly love. The duke of Athens, Theseus imprisons the cousins Palamon and Arcite, who both become infatuated with Emily and turn against each other in competition. After escaping prison in different ways, Palamon and Arcite duel, each with an army of 100 men, for Emily's hand in marriage. Palamon loses but Arcite falls off his horse, telling Emily to mary Palamon as he lies dying.

  • The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story

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    The General Prologue and Frame Story is the beginning part of Geoffrey Chaucer's Centerbury Tales, written in the 14th century. The prologue begins by praising the spring and the reawakening of life, explaining that this is the time when people go on religious pilgrimages to the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett. Chaucer describes the other pilgrims who come from many walks of life: a knight, a nun, a merchant, a miller and many others. In the end, they decide to have a story-telling competition throughout their pilgrimage.

  • The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale

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    "The Miller's Tale" is a churlish story in The Cantebury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer with themes of betrayal, revenge, lust and farce. To spend the night with Alisoun, Nicholas tells her husband John that God will again flood the earth and that he must sleep in a tub. Absolon, also interested in Alisoun, is tricked into kissing Alisoun's arse through a window. Attempting revenge, Absolon sticks a poker into Nicholas' arse. John, hearing the commotion, thinks the flood has come and so cuts the rope, falls and breaks his arm.