Summary and Analysis of The Nun's Priest's Tale (The Canterbury Tales)
Prologue to the Nun's Priest's Tale:
The Knight interrupts the Monk's Tale, for as a man who has reached a certain estate, he does not like to hear tales of a man's fall from grace. He would rather hear of men who rise in esteem and status. The Host refuses to allow the Monk to continue, instead telling the Nun's Priest to tell his tale.
The Nun's Priest's Tale:
The Nun's Priest tells a tale of an old woman who had a small farm in which she kept animals, including a rooster named Chanticleer who was peerless in his crowing. Chanticleer had seven hens as his companions, the most honored of which was Pertelote. One night Chanticleer groaned in his sleep. He had a dream that a large yellow dog chased him. Pertelote mocked him for his cowardice, telling him that dreams are meaningless visions caused by ill humors. Citing Cato's advice, she tells him that she will get herbs from an apothecary that will cure his illness. Chanticleer, however, believes that dreams are prophetic, and tells a tale of a traveler who predicted his own death and whose companion dreamed about who murdered him and where the victim's body was taken. Another man dreamed that his comrade would be drowned, and this came true. He also cites examples of Croesus and Andromache, who each had prophecies in their dreams. However, Chanticleer does praise Pertelote, telling her "Mulier est hominis confusio" (Woman is man's confusion), which he translates as woman is man's delight and bliss. He then 'feathered' her twenty times before the morning. Following her advice, Chanticleer goes to search for the proper herbs. A fox saw Chanticleer and grabbed him. Pertelote began to squawk, which alerted the old woman, who chased the fox away. Chanticleer was thus saved.
Although the Nun's Priest's Tale is a comic fable, it is one of the richest and most adult tales in the Canterbury Tales. It conforms to the personality of its narrator; the Nun's Priest is pious, yet robust and masculine. The tale, even though it has animals as its main characters, seems more adult than a conventional and simplistic tale by the Prioress.