The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Brody, Saul Nathaniel. "Truth and Fiction in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 14 (1979): 33-47.
The Nun's Priest constructs his tale around the tension between literature and life. He employs digression to remind his audience that his tale is fiction but that it still has implications for "real" life. By consistently equating Chanticleer and Pertelote with a man and a woman respectively, the Nun's Priest underscores the connection between reality and fiction. When the Nun's Priest refers to Dante's portrait of Paolo and Francesca, he further explicates the relationship between truth and fiction. The fact that Paolo and Francesca begin their affair while reading about Lancelot and Guinevere implies that reading or hearing about human action can alter human behavior. The digressions in the Nun's Priest's Tale remind the audience that, though a fable, the tale contains some truth. The truth in the Nun's Priest's Tale is difficult to determine, however, because there are so many ambiguities in the tale. The Nun's Priest asserts that all stories, no matter how unreal, contain moral truths.
Myers, D. E. "Focus and 'Moralite' in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 7 (1973): 210-20.
Three hierarchies overlap in the Nun's Priest's Tale. These create three different versions of the tale, "the fable version, the Nun's Priest's version, and Harry Bailly's version" (211). The fable version contains two morals which focus attention only on Chanticleer, thus suggesting that they are marginal to the tale as a whole. Such narrow focus points to the second version of the tale. Rhetoric is central to the Nun's Priest's version of the tale, since it focuses attention on Chanticleer as ruler. Because Chanticleer's story is that of a secular ruler, readers recognize that the Nun's Priest has directed his tale at the Knight. Examination of all of the Canterbury Tales shows that the Host's version addresses the workings of Providence and Fortune. Thus, readers can see the workings of Fortune on each of the three estates. The Nun's Priest, however, does not understand Fortune or Providence. He blames Destiny and Pertelote equally, a logical impossibility. The Host adds another level to the tale by allegorically associating Chanticleer with the Nun's Priest. Thus, the tale becomes a comment on prelates in general and the Nun's Priest in particular. The Nun's Priest's Tale, therefore, turns on its teller.