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The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story

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.

Quote #1

[The Squire] koude songes make and wel endyte,
Juste and eek daunce, and wel purtreye and wryte
(General Prologue 95 – 96)

Not only is the Squire good at feats of arms, he's also skilled at composing verses. We could draw a few different conclusions for this: either we're meant to take the Squire as a true "Renaissance man," or the Squire's writing of verse is really writing of love poetry, and yet one more piece of evidence of his tendency toward romantic infatuation. Or maybe it's both.

Quote #2

[The Monk] yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
That seith that hunters ben nat holy men,
Ne that a monk, whan he is reccheless,
Is lykned til a fish that is waterlees
(That is to seyn, a monk out of his cloistre);
But thilke text held he nat worth an oistre
(General Prologue 177 – 182)

A good medieval reader would not only understand a text, but also apply it to his own life. What are we to make then, of the monk's casual disregard for this text by St. Augustine, one of the great authorities of Christian literature? Not only does this monk have a "newfangled" attitude toward the proper pursuits for a monk, but a newfangled attitude toward reading and authority.

Quote #3

And certeinly [the Friar] hadde a murye note;
Wel coude he singe and pleyen on a rote;
Of yeddinges he bar outrely the prys
(General Prologue 235 – 237)

A "yeddinge" is a narrative song. The type that would be accompanied by a rote, a kind of stringed instrument, would probably be a romantic ballad. This kind of literature might be considered frivolous, especially for a Friar who ought to devote his attention to religious reading and writing.

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