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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 Theme of Principles

This is the tale of Cecilia, so even though there are many characters in "The Second Nun's Tale" who demonstrate great principles (or holiness), it's Cecilia's that gets described and commented on the most. Cecilia's chastity is one of the most important aspects of her holiness, for it's through this chastity that she's able to make converts to the Christian faith. These converts are the spiritual children that replace the physical ones the chaste Cecilia will never have, and they are the tangible signs of her holiness. Another aspect of this holiness is Cecilia's preaching and teaching. The fact that she continues this preaching and teaching even as she's dying indicates that, for Cecilia, this aspect of her holiness is her most important mission on earth.

Questions About Principles

  1. How does Cecilia demonstrate her holiness in the tale? What is her holiness like?
  2. How does "The Second Nun's Tale" link holiness to the senses, and vision in particular?
  3. How does Cecilia's holiness compare with the Virgin Mary's as described by the Second Nun in her Prologue? Why might the Second Nun choose to begin the tale of Cecilia with this hymn to Mary?
  4. Compare and contrast Urban and Ambrose's praise of Cecilia's holiness. What is most important to these men about Cecilia's piety? Why might this be the case?

Chew on This

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

"The Second Nun's Tale" portrays Cecilia's ability to make converts as the most important aspect of her holiness.

"The Second Nun's Tale" implies that true vision is possible only when one becomes free of sin.

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