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The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale


by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale Lines 442-511 Summary

  • "You began wrongfully," says Almachius to Cecilia, "And you continue in wrongfulness."
  • "Don't you know how our mighty free princes have commanded that every Christian shall suffer unless he gives up his Christianity? How he will die, unless he renounces it?"
  • "Your princes are making a mistake, as are you," says Cecilia, "and with a crazy judgment you pronounce us [Christians] guilty, and it is not true. You, that know well our innocence, blame us and accuse us of a crime just because we revere Christ and bear the name of Christian. But we that know this name to be virtuous will not renounce it."
  • Almachius answers, "Choose one of these two options: either make a sacrifice to Jupiter, or renounce Christianity – in one of these ways may you escape execution."
  • At this, the holy, blissful, beautiful young woman begins to laugh, and says to Almachius, "O judge, confused in your foolishness, do you really ask me to renounce innocence to make myself a wicked person? Look at how he dissembles before an audience. He stares, and becomes crazy in adversity!"
  • Almachius says to her, "Immoral wretch, don't you know how far my power extends? Didn't our mighty princes give me the power and authority to make people live or die? Why, then, do you speak to me so arrogantly?"
  • "I speak only steadfastly," replies Cecilia, "Not proudly, for I speak but for my side. We hate this deadly vice of pride. And if you don't fear to hear a truth, then I will show you openly that you have lied. You say that your princes have given you the power of life and death over a man – you, who have only the power to take life, and have no other power, nor right! You can only say your princes have made you minister of death. If you claim more for yourself, you lie, for your power is empty."
  • "Stop your boldness," says Almachius, "and sacrifice to our gods before you go. I don't care what wrongs you accuse me of, for I can suffer it as a philosopher. But I can't allow you to speak of our gods in this way."
  • Cecilia answers, "O silly creature, you have said nothing, since you began speaking to me, that did not betray your stupidity, and the fact that you are in every way an ignorant officer and vain justice."
  • "There's no proving, by your outer eye, that you're not blind; what can be seen by all, that it is stone – everyone can see it – that same stone, you call a god. I counsel you to rest your hand on it, and taste it, since you can't see it with your blind eyes. You will find that it's stone."
  • "It is a shame that everyone will scorn you and laugh at your foolishness. For commonly men know overall that mighty God is in heaven."
  • "And these images, you can easily see, will do no profit to you or them. For in effect they are worthless."

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