The Canterbury Tales


The Clerk's Tale

Generally found following the Summoner’s tale, the Clerk’s tale is meant to be a diversion from the in-group bickering. The Host prompts him to tell the tale by asking him to cheer the group and tell them a lively tale. The Clerk says that he will tell a story that he heard from Francis Petrarch. Petrarch was an extremely well-known poet and scholar, and is often considered the father of humanism. Therefore, his statement that he would be retelling one of Petrarch’s tales was a way of letting the reader know that the story would not be an original one and might be familiar to him or her.

In the story, an Italian king named Walter has refused to marry because he enjoys his freedom. Otherwise, Walter is a wonderful king, and his people want him to marry so that he may produce an heir. The people send a delegation of lords to Walter to ask him to find a wife. Walter finds their arguments persuasive and agrees to marry. He tells the lords that they can choose a day for him to marry and that he will choose his wife. However, Walter has a difficult time deciding which woman to marry. When the day of the wedding arrives, Walter still has not selected a bride. However, he has frequently admired a beautiful young woman named Griselda. Griselda’s father, Janicula, is a poor man, but Griselda has a good reputation. Walter asks Janicula for permission to marry Griselda, which Janicula grants. Walter does put one condition on their marriage—complete obedience—and Griselda agrees to that condition. The two are married, and Griselda gives birth to a daughter.

However, Walter wonders whether his wife is loyal and devises a series of cruel schemes to test her loyalty. He tells Griselda that one of his courtiers is going to take their daughter away, and hopes that this will not change how she feels about him. Griselda assures him that it will not, and the daughter is taken to live with Walter’s sister. Griselda then bears a son, and Walter forces her to send the son away at two years old. Again, Griselda accepts Walter’s decision and...

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Essays About The Canterbury Tales