Study Guide

The Constable in The Canterbury Tales: the Man of Law's Tale

By Chaucer, Geoffrey

The Constable

The Constable offers Custance a home when he finds her washed up on the Northumbrian shore. Later, he converts to Christianity when he witnesses his wife's faith-healing of a blind man. His life takes a tragic turn when a treacherous knight murders his wife, in an attempt to frame Custance for the crime. Tragedy strikes again when Donegild's false letter causes the Constable to ditch Custance and her child on the open sea.

Among all the tale's examples of Christian longsuffering, the Constable stands out as the sole voice of dissent. He asks God, "sith thou art rightful juge, how may it be / That thou wolt suffren innocentz to spille?" (814-815). Of course his question never receives a satisfactory response. Maybe that's because the tale is more interested in showing Christian virtue in the face of adversity than it is in talking theology.