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Free Study Guide-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free BookNotes
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SHORT PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis) (continued)

Sir Topasí Tale is the 1 st story related by Chaucer. It tells of a young Knight named Sir Topas who rides in search of an elf queen. On reaching fairyland he encounters a giant. He promises to engage in a duel and returns to his land. Chaucer then describes the preparation for the duel in great detail. The Host however interrupts the tale and tells Chaucer to narrate some sensible story.

Chaucer then relates the Tale of Melibee. Melibeeís enemies attack his house and his daughter is injured. But his wife, Dame Prudence persuades him to banish all thoughts of revenge and to forgive his enemies.

The Monkís Tale comprises of a series of tragedies. The Knight who can no longer bear the tediously dismal stories interrupts the Monk.

The Nun's Priestís Tale is a merry beast fable. It concerns the misfortune that befalls a cock named Chaunticleer when he chooses to ignore the import of his dream to please his lovely wife Pertelote. A fox called Daun Russel catches him off guard by praising his melodious voice. Chaunticleerís abduction raises a great hue and cry and all the villagers chase the fox. Chaunticleer urges the fox to shout abuses at the villagers. As soon as the fox opens his mouth Chaunticleer flew safely to a tree top. The fox again praised Chaunticleer but the cock refused to fall in the same trap twice.


The Second Nunís Tale invokes the Virgin Mary. It relates how a virgin maiden named Cecilia converted her husband and his brother to Christianity. They were soon prosecuted for this act but they refused to worship the pagan gods. In the meanwhile Cecilia managed to convert even some of their prosecutors. She was eventually murdered.

The Canon's Yeomanís Tale deals with his own experiences during the practice of alchemy. The tale recounts how a Canon duped a priest into believing that he could transform mercury into silver and sold him the fake formula for forty pounds.

The Mancipleís Tale recounts the story of Phoebus who had a white crow that could sing and talk. While Phoebus is away on a trip his wife sleeps with her secret lover. The crow betrays the secret. Phoebus kills his wife. He is then overcome with sorrow and angrily spurns the crow. He plucks out its feathers and replaces it with black ones and curses that all its descendants shall have a coarse voice.

The Parsonís Tale is the concluding tale. It is a very long prose sermon on the seven deadly sins.

The Canterbury Tales ends with Chaucerís Retracciouns where he renounces all his secular works including those tales of Canterbury that are immoral.

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