The Canterbury Tales


The Canon Yeoman's Prologue and Tale

When the Second Nun finishes her tale, the party of pilgrims is joined by two men on dilapidated horses, the Canon and his Yeoman. The Host welcomes the two men to the group and invites them to tell a tale. The Yeoman begins telling his tale, introducing himself and the Canon. He reveals that he and the Canon tell people that they can do alchemy, but that they are failures. He talks about how he once made a comfortable living, but that his repeated failures at alchemy have left him impoverished. The Yeoman also talks about their search for the Philosopher’s Stone. The Canon realizes that his secrets are about to be revealed and rides away from the group of pilgrims.

The Yeoman’s tale focuses on a canon who is also an alchemist. The canon borrows money from a priest, and when he repays the priest, he offers to tell him the secrets of alchemy. He tricks the priest into believing that he has turned quicksilver into silver. The priest buys the canon’s secrets, and the canon disappears with the money. The Yeoman ends his tale by making it clear that alchemy is not a real science and launching a general attack on alchemists. The Yeoman is not like the Pardoner, who admits that he cheats people but has no remorse; instead, he uses this opportunity to denounce alchemy.

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