A Rhyming Analytical Contrast of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

(Written for Mrs. Deeberry’s English 12AS class at Liberty High School.)

In a contrasting analysis of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales,
“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” and as well, “The Pardoners Tale,”
One finds that they differ in many ways,
They are different types of tales, I say.
As well the characters differ quite much,
And the stories take place in settings different enough.

Geoffrey Chaucer born in London, England was (Chaucer v).
And through his life he seldom took pause.
From birth around 1343 to death in 1400
He did most everything under the sun (Duer et al. 86).
Many scholars think, but certainly not all,
That his grammar school was the Cathedral of St. Paul.
He may have studied law at the Inns of Court
And there learned of legalities and torts (David).

In 1366 he married a lady-in-waiting,
Philippa Pan was she who became poet’s lady (Duer et al. 86).
Chaucer was a page, esquire, customs man as well
In London, then later Greenwich did he dwell.
He was, for a time, justice of the peace
Parliamentarian and diplomat overseas (David).
But the thing that he loved and did in his spare time
Was to write poetry and prose, line by line.

The best known work of Chaucer today
Is the unfinished Canterbury Tales, I’d say.
There are twenty-four complete tales in this store,
Although he had planned about one hundred more (Duer et al. 86).
The tales tell of people in that to Canterbury travel,
And of 1300’s society they paint quite a mural.

In the “Prologue” Chaucer introduces a bunch
Of pilgrims gathered at the Tabard Inn for lunch.
One by one each person introduced
Until the innkeeper comes with interesting news
That he shall serve as guide to the group
And on the way each member of the troupe
Shall tell two stories, and two on the return
And the innkeeper shall judge all he has heard (Chaucer 21).
So in a rhyming scheme that seldom fails,
Thus begins the Canterbury Tales.

The tales do vary much in style
And such makes the reading more worthwhile.
“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is a fable true
A story of talking birds and the things they do (Chaucer 228).
Whilst “The Pardoners Tale” is a story of morals
What’s right, wrong, and so horrible (Chaucer, 256).
Meanwhile the “Wife of Bath’s Tale”
A courtly romance combined with legends stale (Chaucer 291).
There furthermore were tales from many,
The Knight’s and Reeve’s usually at the beginning,
Then followed in various orders
By the Squire, Yeoman, and Summoner,
The Miller, a second Nun, a Plowman,
A Monk, a Friar, a Cleric, and a Franklin,
The Merchant, the Parson, and indeed
The Host as well to entertain they agreed (Kearns 43).
Such was the group headed to Canterbury
Which proved to be quite so merry.

Chaucer wrote through his life in three
Major poetic styles, one can easily see.
His earliest was called the artificial period,
Where his work was to emulate the more accepted.
This period of writing did not last long,
The quality of it was not too strong.
From there he went on to writing direct in French,
As English was considered to be a lingual wench.
His final style, and the mostly heralded,
Is of the English period and now quite accepted (David).

There are various types of tales so included,
And in case the types have thus far been eluded,
I shall define them now to make things clear,
So now to listen you must open your ear.
A fable is a story with talking animals or things,
While a religious story is about spiritual trappings.
A legend is a story passed down for years past,
And a fairy tale has false creatures that leave you aghast.
Sermons are of a religious kind,
Given by clergymen speaking their mind.
Courtly romances, the only remaining,
Simple stories of medieval love not waning (Merriam-Webster’s).

As now per the requirements of the outline,
I must take this short moment in time
To explain the meanings of some literary terms
And therefore help your understanding be reaffirmed.

A plot is the plan, or main story of the work,
And includes several parts which facilitate the quirks.
The setting is the time and place of the story,
A protagonist is the good guy, the focus. The quarry,
The antagonist, is the bad guy indeed,
And the conflict is what the plot on is carried.
The climax is the point where emotions are high,
And the conclusion is the end, the outcome decides (Merriam-Webster’s).

A tragedy indeed is a medieval tale
Of the fall of a man, a great man I entail.
A comedy is not necessarily humorous,
But merely a happy ending, with nothing amiss.
Finally a drama, portraying life and conflicting
Has become the norm of society’s picking (Merriam-Webster’s).

“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is a fable, such the fact,
Of the talking cock and hen that were later attacked
By the fox. They were Chanticleer and Pertelote
Or so were the names that Chaucer wrote.
This tale’s setting was in the confines of a barnyard,
Yet there from the fox one must guard.
The moral of the story was simple, indeed,
“Take the grain and let the chaff lie still,” said he (Chaucer 243),
Meaning to take the good of life, leave the bad,
Do not trust in flattery or you will be the one had.

“The Pardoner’s Tale” was rather a moral writing,
To inform of wrongs that may need righting.
The tale was of three drunken teenagers,
Searching for death in the forest and later
Stumbled accidentally upon a treasure
Which to them had been quite a pleasure.
So in their countryside setting they did
Send to the town for a drink, one of the kids.
The two remaining then plotted to kill on return,
The one who went to the city, but hadn’t heard
Of his plan to poison the two when he got back,
In an all-around massive stab in the back.
In the end, all three of them were dead,
And the moral of this should easily fill your head,
That people shall not be trusted and also,
Treasure is a bad idea, you know (Chaucer 266).

So I think I’ve shown in the rhyming work
Of the differences between these two tales and their quirks.
“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” and “The Pardoner’s Tale,”
Interesting pieces of The Canterbury Tales,
Are of different styles and in fact,
I do not think the evidence is in lack.
And thus the time has come to conclude,
It’s waning on, this fact is true.
A masterpiece? I shall decide later,
And thus concludes this research paper.

Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Trans. Frank Ernest Hill. Norwalk: The
Easton Press, 1978David, Alfred. “Chaucer, Geoffrey.” Encarta Encyclopedia. 1999 ed.

Duer, Amy, et al. Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: The British Tradition.
Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1999

Kearns, George, ed. English and Western Literature. New York: Macmillan Publishing
Company, 1984

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary OnLine. < >. 2000 ed.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.