Part seventeen: The after words l.829 'The frere lough' - l.856 'Yis dame, quod'

Synopsis of l.829-856

Listening to the listeners; the reader and other pilgrims 

The Frere (friar) laughs when the Wife finally comes to the end of her tale, (i.e. the tale of her marriages, not the tale that they were expecting to hear). This provokes the Somonour (summoner) into a discordant exchange with the friar:

  • The Summoner thinks that the Friar can't criticise anyone for interposing themselves between the listener and the story, since friars are like flies that ‘falle in every dish' (crawl over all sorts of food)
  • The Friar threatens that when his turn comes he will tell one or two tales about a summoner that will make everybody laugh
  • The Summoner retaliates in kind, saying he'll tell a tale or two about a friar before the company reach Sittingbourne (see Religious / philosophical context > Pilgrims and pilgrimage). 

The Host calls for peace immediately, and creates the opportunity for the Wife to start her tale. The Wife makes an ironic quip claiming that she will do so if she has the ‘licence' (permission) of the Friar. 

Commentary on l.829-856

It has indeed been a ‘long preamble of a tale'. At the end Chaucer makes us aware of some of the audience, the people to whom the tale is told. These figures can influence the reader's response when they comment on what they have heard. However, the Friar and Summoner move quickly into their own rivalry. The main impression they leave is that the Wife's Prologue has not brought harmony to the group. The pilgrims have certainly heard a tale, but it was not the one that they were expecting. 

l.833 quod the somonour, goddes armes two!: The fact that a religious figure blasphemes indicates his personality. The Summoner is swearing by the arms of Jesus, commonly depicted as stretched out on the cross of his crucifixion.

l.837-8 What spwkestow of preambulacioun? / … amble, or trotte, or pees, or go sit doun!: The Summoner takes issue with the Friar's vocabulary, which he doesn't fully comprehend, and punctures it with his coarse response.

l.851 lat the womman telle hire tale: The Wife's voice has prevailed. Has she achieved ‘maistrie' over her audience, if the Host, representing the general will of the pilgrims, has found her worth listening to?

Investigating l.829-856

  • When you consider the content and characters involved in much of the Wife's Prologue, to what extent do you see Chaucer's framing device of the pilgrimage as:
    • Religious
    • Subversively secular?
  • Think back on your reading and work on the text as a whole and identify what you see as the major themes of the Wife's Prologue
  • Try to express your list of themes in a chart or diagram showing where the themes reveal oppositions in the text .e.g. between male and female / experience and authority / power and domination / pleasure and woe / liberty and constraint
    • Do you think that any of these oppositions are resolved or broken down by the end of the text?
  • Thinking about the shape and pattern of the Prologue, consider how you might express it diagrammatically on a large sheet of paper:
    • What will your diagram look like? (eg. you could use a time-line on which you annotate the periods of the Wife's life - the main movement is chronological, OR you might use a large circle and show how the wife begins and ends with an attack on authority OR …..?)
    • Annotate what you produce with quotations, line numbers and drawings (You will find that you have to know the text well to do this and that you may have to revise some of your first ideas about the way in which the narrative is structured)
    • When you have done it, you will have a quick revision guide to the text. You can look at it and see immediately what events / ideas / images are in particular sections.
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.