Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: the Man of Law's Tale Lines 169-217

By Chaucer, Geoffrey

Lines 169-217

Lines 169-189

  • The Man of Law swears up and down that all this praise for Custance is totally deserved. Truer than true.
  • But back to the tale.
  • These merchants prepare new ships, and after they've seen Custance, they eagerly return home to do their business as they always have and live in prosperity.
  • It just so happen happens that these merchants are friendly with the Sultan of Syria.
  • And when they've come from any foreign land, the Sultan wines and dines them in order to hear the news from far away. Guess he likes to live vicariously through their travels.
  • So of course they tell him all about Custance, and before you know it, the Sultan's dead set on marrying her. Because, you know, he's in love with her from afar.

Lines 190-203

  • Now, astrology tells us that it was written in the stars at the Sultan's birth that he would die for love.
  • In the stars, God knows, the deaths of everyone are written clearly for those who can read them, which is handy in a morbid sort of way.
  • In the stars was written the deaths of Hector, Achilles, Pompey, and Julius before they were even born.
  • The strife of Thebes, and the deaths of Hercules, Sampson, and Turnus were also written there; it's just that men are so stupid that no one can read the stars in full.
  • So it stinks to be the Sultan, we guess.

Lines 204-217

  • The Sultan sends for his counselors and, to make a long story short, tells them he's either going to marry Custance or drop dead. Yeah, he's a bit of a drama queen.
  • He orders them to arrange the whole shebang. Because by doing so, they'll be saving his life, you know.
  • Of course the counselors are all in disagreement about what should be done and how to go about nabbing Custance for their boss. They have a bunch of arguments about magic, and treachery.
  • But finally, they conclude that they can't see any other way out of the dilemma but marriage.