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The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Mortality Theme

One of the most celebrated aspects of the Christianity Cecilia offers her converts is its promise of eternal life with God. In "The Second Nun's Tale," this promise offers the characters freedom on earth; released from the fear of death, they can follow their own consciences rather than being constrained by the will of a dictator. Power over life and death is also something Almachius is eager to claim for himself. Almachius's inability to effect Cecilia's death until God is good and ready for it proves him powerless. Cecilia's refusal to die symbolizes Christianity's promise of eternal life, and reveals the way this promise renders earthly authority impotent. And finally, the most important fact of Cecilia's life is her death, for through this death she gains sainthood.

Questions About Mortality

  1. In what ways does "The Second Nun's Tale" demonstrate the way in which Christianity's promise of eternal life renders earthly authority impotent?
  2. Compare the deaths of the different characters in "The Second Nun's Tale." What does each character's death teach us about them and their priorities?
  3. How is Cecilia's death a direct answer to her debate with Almachius? What is that answer?
  4. Why is Cecilia's death so important to her story?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Second Nun's Tale" portrays Christianity's promise of eternal life as also giving characters with freedom on earth. Cecilia's refusal to die until she is good and ready evacuates Almachius's claims to power of any truth whatsoever.

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