Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Prologue to the Monk's Tale

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Prologue to the Monk's Tale

  • The Host expresses a wish that his wife could have heard Chaucer's tale of Melibee. His wife is not as patient as Prudence, the wife of Melibee: in fact, when the Host beats his servants, his wife brings the clubs and eggs him on. Also, if any of his friends fail to acknowledge his wife in church, she yells at him and accuses him of being browbeaten by his friends.
  • The Host fears that his wife will some day force him to kill a neighbor, for he is dangerous with a knife and dares not stand up to his wife.
  • Changing the subject, the Host asks the Monk to tell a tale.
  • The Host praises the Monk's fair and brawny appearance, saying that he looks more like a lay man or master of his domain than a pale, poor monk. In fact, says the Host, it was a foolish person that dedicated the Monk to religion, for had the Monk the opportunity to have sex, he would produce many children.
  • The Host says that if he were a pope, every manly man would have a wife, even if he were a monk or a priest. Religion, says the Host, has caused the children of the world to be puny and weak, because so many weak laymen are procreating while manly men like the Monk remain celibate.
  • Religion also causes wives to commit adultery with churchmen, because so many churchmen are better at sex than laymen.
  • The Host asks the monk not to be angry with him; he's only joking.
  • The Monk says he will tell some tragedies.
  • The Monk defines a tragedy as a story about someone who falls from a prosperity into misery and makes a wretched end.
  • The Monk announces his intention to tell the tragedies as they come into his mind, and not in chronological order.

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