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Detective Play: Just Under Our Noses the Nun’s Priest’s Tale of the Cock and Hen, Chanticleer and Pertelote Analysis

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mdlu720
Words 1436
Pages 6
Matthew Derrick L. Uy
Lit 126.1
Edward-David E. Ruiz, Ph.D.
October 3, 2014

Detective Play: Just Under Our Noses
The Nun’s Priest’s Tale of the Cock and Hen, Chanticleer and Pertelote Analysis

“For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”
― Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene

Stories and tales allow us to take a step back into the past and dance with its maker. Even though little is known about someone, much like Sappho, whom is only known through the bits and pieces her of work recovered; we come to know what their tastes in topics are, what words they favor, and how they weave them together into something wonderful, among many other things. As for the Nun’s Priest, even for such an enigma, it is possible to dissect how he is like, through his tale, according to Chaucer.
His story begins with a widow, that is the mother of two, characterized to be a patient, loving, and content woman. This claim is shown explicitly and implicitly as the story tells us of how she had little, but made the most out of it in examples such as her small income and possessions, her provision for herself and daughters (301), her health not depending on any extravagance, but only good diet, exercise, and heart’s content (302), and her naming of her animals (302, 303), which may display affection and attachment.
How is this relevant if the title is the cock and the hen? It can be seen as a foil to the fable to be told. The general mood that pervades the introductory lines is of how plain and unsophisticated life can be, of how the family of the widow did not have a description of any conflict, trouble, or worry. This can be used as a contrast to provide impetus to what would be more the more sententious part of the tale, which is of the cock and the hen.
Chanticleer the cock, being properly introduced as an epitome of greatness in his own kind, is allured to the “Fair Miss Pertelote.” He is most functional and is even said to go head to head with the accuracy of a clock and the cosmos (303). He also had the most wondrous hues (304). And to even further to accentuate his beauty, Miss Perlote as his complement was described as debonaire and companionable, among others (304). Together, they were glorious.
This speaks for the Nun’s Priest as what he may define a simple and humble life. Where an individual is content, as shown in the characteristics and situation of the widow, and makes the most of what he or she has. The priest, displaying his meticulousness, also includes some specific details to add flavor and to give a slice-of-life feeling, such as her being a dairy woman (303) and of not drinking liquor, specifically wine (302). Despite the austere simplicity shown by the widow, if we look at the bigger picture, there is a microcosm that that is lived out by the barnyard animals which bring complexity to the tale. The living out of one’s functionality, as Chanticleer manifests, where he becomes the best that he can be as a cock. Pertelote on the other hand is character of good relations and of elegance. This gives us a glimpse of the Nun’s Priest’s archetypes or ideals.
A sudden and steep fall of the pair’s grandeur sets in when Chanticleer is “sorely troubled in a dream.” An initial bracketing of Pertelote would display a dynamic where patriarchy is both pushed forward and pulled backward may be seen here. Pulled backward because of the unconventional reprimands of Pertelote as seen in the words of “I cannot love a coward, by my faith,” (307) where she outright expresses her disagreement; and in the same lines, she imposes a criteria for what men, or rather in this case, what cocks are made of. I believe the pygmalion effect here further reinforces the patriarchal concept as consequences of the imposition lead Chanticleer to be better in his senses as seen in his being calmer in the lines full of brevity, “Madam, thank you for your advice.” (310)
Chanticleer then sets counter examples to even out the playing field. His examples use the literary devices of repetition to emphasize his point, and later on prove to be part of a foreshadowing, which says well about the Nun’s Priest’s familiarization of literary devices, in addition to the foil technique earlier. If we see their dialogue as a whole, we would see that it turns out to be a healthy debate, although seeing it as a whole won’t eliminate the traces of the patriarchy concept in it, it reunites the experience by allowing both individuals to express their thoughts and partially resolve the unsettledness of Chanticleer. Chanticleer says, “Now let us talk of happiness, and stop all this.” (322)
With this, the role of women as assistive, restorative, as well as essential to man is displayed and further emphasized in the lines “Woman is man’s joy and all his bliss,” (323) as said by Chanticleer. Their dialogue portrays the dialect between man and woman. Chanticleer begins to be his old functional and proud self once again.
What is important to note is that later in the story, Chanticleer recognizes that it was foolish of him to listen to Pertelote. This would debunk the idea of what a relationship means to the Nun’s Priest; however, he then is quick to say that those are not his words for he “... can find nothing wrong with any woman.” (329) This further supports how a relationship should be in the Nun’s Priest’s eyes, where only the initial interaction would stand, and having regret not to be part of his ideal or concept between a couple.
The storyteller then relays advice which may be shoveled up from his tale. He says that, “Be wary, you lords, of their treachery.” It can be said that he is a man of good intentions and polite for he sends caution and wants his listeners to be wary. Also, in the prologue, he obliges to tell a happy story as he is asked to by saying, “”Yes sir,” said he, “yes, host, so shall I proceed...”” (300). And he does just so to lighten everyone’s mood. A characteristic to accompany this is his pragmatism and logic that uses aesthetics to facilitate a deeper learning as well as entertainment to his listeners. The priest puts less of a premium in terms of form and asks the audience to pay attention to what is essential (340), much is like when a person receives a wrapped gift, where although the covering/wrapping is a gift in itself because the sender of the gift took time and effort to conceal the gift, what a person would prize is the content inside the wrap; the wrap is but a means to something greater.
The nun’s priest may also be said to be well read as he digresses and relates a lot of historical and literary figures alike to his tale; some of such are Saint Kenelm (319), Lord Pharaoh, the King of Egypt (320), and Andromache, Hector’s wife (321) among others. In addition to this, he is knowledgeable of latin in the lines of “MULIER EST HOMINIS CONFUSIO,” (322) which further supports that he is well read.
In the epilogue, the nun’s priest is explicitly depicted as someone who is physically desirable, in complexion and tone, as well as charismatic by the host. We may say that he is driven and inspired by God because although he may be very charming and it looks like he can talk his way out of anything, he not only talked his way into the path of holiness, but also walked his way by embodying the religion through his good attitude as seen in the earlier discussion and as he concludes his tale with “Amen” (340).
As to have a recapitulation of the characteristics and views of the Nun’s Priest, we see that the tale displays of what he sees as very ordinary, exemplified by the widow’s life, his ideals of man and woman seen in the individual characteristics of the cock and the hen, his thoughts on the interaction between partners, and his great knowledge in literature and books. For his character, he is of good intentions, polite, pragmatic, logical, physically desirable, charming, and religiously driven.

Works Cited
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” Canterbury Tales (Selected): An Interlinear Translation. Ed IIa. Vincent F. Hooper. Woodbury, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 1970: 297-340…...

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