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The Nun's Priest's Tale Analysis

Uploaded by kalvinklen on Nov 07, 2001

“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is a brilliant piece of comedy that pokes fun at human nature. The Priest tells of conceited cock, Chaunticleer, and the love of his life, Pertelote. This tale adheres to the mock-epic form, satirizing man’s view of heroism by telling it through the eyes of beasts.

As to how this tale is mock-heroic, one first shall consider the means through which it is told-a rooster. When rooster personifies the characteristics of a conventional hero, it shouldn’t be simply perceived as simple and light-hearted, but comic and ironic. Chaunticleer is embellished with haughty description: “His comb was redder than fine coral, tall and battlemented like a castle wall”. Is this not similar to how other epic heroes are depicted? Pehaps Chaunticleer embodies the idyllic cock. Now consider, in comparison to Chaunticleer, the boasts made by Beowulf. Chaunticleer’s boast was not that of declaration (to, say, destroy a villain), but his actual crowing; it was his duty to raise the sun each morning, giving birth to life on Earth. Chaunticleer’s intelligence is for the purpose of proving the irony of man’s own [intelligence] and how it is still juxtapose the susceptibility of flattery. That is, when Chaunticleer refutes Pertelote’s notion that dreams are without relevance to daily life, he talks in such a scholarly tone that one can hardly believe it is a rooster. “Now, take St. Kenelm’s life which I’ve been reading”, “…then there’s the Old Testament- a manual well worth your study”, and “Look at Lord Pharaoh, kind of Egypt!” all use profound theological and philosophical themes, in the context of barnyard, to mock mankind.

Yet another aspect of mock-epic must be considered. When Don Russel, the fox, easily tricks Chaunticleer and snatches him away, the entire world seems to stop its current happenings and focus on this tragedy. Compare the chase which ensued with that of other epics. How absurd such a comparison is! A fox, a cock, cackling chickens? Hardly to the significance of Beowulf.

Although this mock-epic tale is deserving of many laughs, it is accompanied by a distinct, profound moral. Precisely, Chaunticleer concedes to hubris and subsequently, flattery. The fox’s use of flattery shows how easily treachery can come about when the subject thereof is blinded by pride. But it was not long until the rooster used his cleverness to flatter the fox into releasing him. This presents the stupidity and ignorance...

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Uploaded by:   kalvinklen

Date:   11/07/2001

Category:   Literature

Length:   2 pages (405 words)

Views:   2891

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