Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Introduction to the Man of Law's Tale

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Introduction to the Man of Law's Tale

  • The Host concludes from the position of the sun and the length of the shadows on the ground that it is ten o'clock in the morning. Worried that the pilgrims are losing time which, as he says, quoting from the ancient Greek philosopher Seneca, can never be regained, he urges the pilgrims not to remain idle, but to continue their game.
  • The Host asks the Man of Law to tell a tale.
  • The Man of Law says that although he has no wish to break with the rules of the game, he knows no suitable tale that Chaucer (the narrator) has not already told.
  • The Man of Law lists Chaucer's works, saying that if he hasn't told a tale in one work, he's certainly told it in another. He's told more tales of lovers than Ovid, such as the tale of Ceyx and Alcion. He's written the Legends of Good Women, where one can read about many famous women abandoned by their lovers.
  • The Man of Law concludes that, although Chaucer has written many tales about women, he's certainly never written about a woman named Canacee, who loved her own brother, nor of Appollonius of Tyre, who raped his own daughter. These stories are horrible, says the Man of Law, and he has no intention to tell stories like that.
  • The Man of Law decides to get around the problem of being compared to Chaucer by telling his tale in prose, and leaving the verses to Chaucer. He then proceeds to tell a tale in verse.

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