Chaucer's the nun's priest tale

Essay by EmmaStantonUniversity, Master's May 2004

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I"'"d like to say a few words about the author first.

Chaucer was the son of prosperous upper-middle class parents, fought in France, acted as a courtier, went on diplomatic missions abroad, and eventally became Controller of Customs in London. In common with all authors of his time, his poetry was written for his own personal pleasure and that of a group of friends, with no thought of publication, which in any event was not then technically possible; writing and the study of literature was merely an accepted hobby and accomplishment for those at Chaucer"'"s level of society.

Chaucer"'"s writing fall into three periods-the French period (1359-72), including "'"The Boke of the Duchesse"'" (1369) and parts of '"'The Romaunt of the Rose'"' (1370), the Italian period (1372-86), including '"'The House of Fame'"', '"'The Parliament of Fowls'"', '"'Troylus and Cryseyde'"', and '"'The Legend of Good Women'"', and his mature period (1386-1400), from which The Canterbury Tales date.

Of Chaucer"'"s works The Canterbury Tales are by far the best-known, probably first conceived in 1386. Chaucer was the first author to write in what was a recognisable English language. He wrote in the vernacular, the English that was spoken in and around London in his day.


The Nun"'"s Priest Tale is a fable, a simple tale about animals that concludes with a moral lesson. It is about a cock and his seven wifes living on a farm belonging to a poor widow. The cock has a dream that he is going to be eaten by a dog-like creature, but his favourite wife, Pertelote, dismisses the dream as meaningless and tells him not to be silly. Some time later a fox comes into the yard and engages the cock in conversation. After flattering the cock about...