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The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Analysis: Tone

Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?

Flowery, Pious

"The Second Nun's Tale" uses tons adjectives as embellishment, which is why it merits being called "flowery." Most of this adjectival embellishment happens when characters are addressed or named. Cecilia calls her husband "O sweete and wel biloved spouse deere" (144) – whatever happened to "honey"? Likewise, Cecilia is a "blisful faire mayde deere" (293). The effect of all this embellishment is to create a tone of admiration for the tale's characters, which enhances this tale's pious tone.

The narrator establishes much of this piety in the Prologue, when she pens a hymn in praise of the Virgin Mary and frames her tale as the "werk" that will enliven the "feith" that is dead without it (64). Begun with such serious and pious intent, "The Second Nun's Tale" rarely strays far from its focus, even stopping at one point to insert another writer's praise of Cecilia's holiness. This insertion testifies to the narrator's determination to keep her purpose – a veneration of her saint – firmly at hand.

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