The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Tragedie is to seyn, a certeyn storie,
As olde bookes maken us memorie,
Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee
And is yfallen out of heigh degree
Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly,
And they ben versified communely
Of six feet, which men clepen exametron.
In prose eek been endited many oon,
And eek in meetre, in many a sondry wyse.
Lo, this declaryng oghte ynogh suffise;
(Monk's Prologue 86 – 95)
Why does the Monk think it's necessary to define the genre of his tale, when none of the other pilgrims have done so?
I seye for me, it is a greet disese,
whereas men han been in greet welthe and ese
To heeren of hire sodeyn fal, allas!
And the contrarie is joye and greet solas,
As whan a man hath been in povre estaat,
And clymbeth up and wexeth fortunat,
And there abideth in prosperitee.
Swich thyng is gladsom, as it thynketh me,
And of swich thyng were goodly for to telle.
(Nun's Priest's Prologue 9 – 13)
In expressing his preference for tales in which someone ascends to great fortune, rather than falls from prosperity, the Knight reveals that for him, the most important consideration in determining the worth of a tale is whether or not it makes him feel happy. In this he agrees with the Host and perhaps, the Man of Law.
Youre tale anoyeth al this compaignye.
swich talkyng is nat worth a boyerflye,
For therinne is ther no desport ne game.
(Nun's Priest's Prologue 23 – 25)
Taking his critique of the Monk's Tale a step further than the Knight, the Host declares the Monk's tragedies not only unpleasant to hear, but annoying and worthless. This is probably why the Monk reacts so sulkily when the Host asks him to tell another tale.