Brief Note on “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340- 1400)

Updated October 10, 2022

The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is a pioneering work by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340- 1400) who claims high regards as the father of English Poetry. Precisely, Chaucer was the most paradigmatic poet of the 14th century.

It is said that with him is born our real poetry. So much so that, the English Literature owes much to Geoffrey. Legendary Chaucer, experimented with the metre and versification.

He is possibly the greatest story teller in verse. His unfinished work “The Canterbury Tales” in particular “the Nun’s Priest’s Tale” shows all these observations. Composed in the East Midland dialect of London, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is one of the most entertaining tales from the Chaucer’s magnum opus “The Canterbury Tales”.

Summary of the Nun’s Priest’s Tale

The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is a very straightforward and uncomplicated narrative of the Geoffrey Chaucer. The story centres on two animal protagonists- Chauncticleer, the cock and the Russell, a Fox. An elderly poor widow lives in a small cottage and simple life with her two daughters.

Her few possessions include three cows, a sheep, and some chickens. The cock ‘Chaunticleer’ lives in that house of a poor widow. Chaunticleer lives there with seven roosters among them, he is the master of roosters. Among them, he loves most truly a hen named   Pertelote.

One day Chaunticleer has a terrible dream. He becomes afraid of it. He tells Pertelote about his awful dream in which he sees a frightful beast like hound tries to kill him in the yard. Pertelote takes the dream lightly. Basically, Pertelote believes the dream to be the result of some physical malady, and she promises him that she will find some purgative herbs. She advises the cock not to worry about the dream.

Chaunticleer tries to forget the dream that passes over him and declares his perfect happiness- thinking about the yard with his hens and starts to sing loudly in royal manner. All of a sudden, Chaunticleer’s eyes fall upon a butterfly among the cabbages where he catches sight of a black fox crouching upon his belly. He cries out and wants to run away but the clever fox makes the cock believe that their fathers were a good friend; hence there is no need to be afraid of him.

Finally, the foolish cock believes the cunning fox who also makes him believe that Chaunticleer’s father was a good singer. The wily Russell tricked him to believe and then the fox requests the cock to sing a song for him. When the foolish cock started to sing, the wicked fox catches him by his neck and runs away. The hens create commotion; the farmlands chase the fox.

While the wicked fox is running, the Chaunticleer tries a clever trick on the Russell. Chaunticleer makes him fool him by telling the wicked fox to make an announcement to his pursuers that they are not going to catch him. As the fox opens his mouth to speak, the Chaunticleer slipped off his mouth and fled to a tree. The Russell prays to him to come down but the cock refuses to be fooled again. Here the story of “Nun’s Priest Tale” ends.

 Analysis of “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” by Geoffrey

“The Nun’s Priest Tale” is the first mock- heroic epic in the history of the English literature. It imitates all the characteristics and conventions of a serious epic. It is a long narrative in verse. The story comprises lofty incident, noble character, grand style and exalted language. But what make it a mock-heroic epic is its trivial subject and its trivial characters.

The subject of “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is petty and insignificant. It is, in fact, an Aesopian animal fable with a moral attached to it. The first important moral that Chaucer wishes to convey through the story is that one should never trust to a flatterer. Secondly, the importance of when to speak or when not.

Chaucer is the greatest storyteller in verse. The story of “The Nun’s Priest Tale” is based on the French and German fables but Chaucer has made some interesting changes in them to suit his purpose. This story is made lively by multiplicity of narrative technique, apt descriptions, witty and humorous dialogues, wealth of literary allusions and Philosophic comments. The tale is a remarkable social document too. The poet makes innumerable references to the contemporary social conditions. It clearly shows the anti-feminism sentiments prevailing during the age of Chaucer.

On the whole, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” raises a number of issues related to human responsibility and destiny. The meanings, however, may differ for the individuals and for different social contexts.

Beyond “The Chaucer’s Nun” Under Literature Reads

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