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The Host remarks to the Clerk that he's been awfully quiet on this journey, so much so that the Host suspects he's studying, when now is really not the time.
The Host tells the Clerk to be more cheerful, and tell them a merry tale (and not a sermon), something about adventures. The Clerk should not speak in scholarly language, but in plain terms the whole company can understand.
The Clerk answers that he respects the Host's authority, and will certainly obey him by telling a tale that he learned from a clerk in Padua called Francis Petrarch.
The Clerk says that Petrarch wrote great poetry that illuminated Italy, but that death took him, as it does everyone.
The Clerk says that Petrarch wrote a prologue to his tale in which he described its setting. The Clerk, however, thinks this prologue unnecessary, and so launches right into his tale.