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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 Wisdom and Knowledge

More than most other virgin martyrs, Cecilia really knows her stuff, where "stuff" is Christian Theology. Cecilia uses this knowledge to convert pagans by preaching and teaching. So important is this "loore" that even after Cecilia's head is dangling from her neck, she continues to teach and preach to the faithful. Cecilia accuses Almachius of a lack of education because of the argumentative errors he makes; for her, this "lewedness," or unlearnedness in rhetorical matters, is a sign of a similar unlearnedness in his soul, one that could likely be rectified with her "wise loore." Yet despite the importance of knowledge and teaching in "The Second Nun's Tale," certain passages imply that it is not enough for a full Christian faith: after an gaining knowledge of Christianity, a convert must receive the sacraments and commit to living a life free of sin, in this way perfecting one's learning.

Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

  1. How does "The Second Nun's Tale" connect vision and the sense of sight to wisdom?
  2. Who in this tale is wise, and who (supposedly) is not? What are the characteristics of people who are wise?
  3. How does this tale portray learning and knowledge as powerful? How do we see it used in the tale?
  4. In order to be considered perfect Christians, what else must characters do besides learn about Christianity? That is, what is necessary for a Christian in addition to wisdom and knowledge?

Chew on This

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

"The Second Nun's Tale" focuses more on the power of wisdom and knowledge than on its actual content.

In "The Second Nun's Tale," a character's apparent knowledge and learnedness are an indication of the state of his soul.

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