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Free Study Guide-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free BookNotes
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THE TALES: SUMMARIES AND NOTES

The Prologue to the Tale of Melibeus

Here the Host Interrupts Chaucerís Tale of Sir Topas

The host interrupts Chaucer and commands him to stop his "arrant drivel" and his doggerel rhyming. He tells Chaucer that he is merely wasting their time with his silly rhymes and asks him to tell a tale in prose and one that is amusing. Chaucer agrees to tell a little thing in prose. He asserts that this tale is an edifying moral story and that he has included oft-quoted proverbs to strengthen its effect. He entreats the pilgrims to let him complete narrating his entertaining tale.

Notes

This is the first tale told by Chaucer. The Host interrupts it after 246 lines because of its illiterate rhyming. It is a composition of traditional verse romance in six line stanzas divided into feets of uneven length.


The protagonist of the tale Sir Topas is a parody of the romantic aspects of Knighthood. It is clear that his attainments, attire, and weapons are not worthy of a stately dignified Knight. To top it all, his quest is for a mysterious elf queen. This parody makes the traditional verse romance seem absurd and vitiated. Even the Host realizes its absurdity and begs Chaucer to stop his arrant driveling. Chaucer ironically protests that these are his best rhymes. However it is clear that the stanzas are mocking traditional cliches and Chaucerís aim was to ridicule the innumerable tales extolling a Knightís quest for a beautiful and virtuous maiden. Chaucer mocks the genteel traits of Knighthood and exposes the escapism involved in such mindless entertainment.

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