The Canterbury Tales: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. General Prologue
    Inkeeper and Host, said to the pilgrims traveling to Canterbury
    "It's that you each, to shorten the long journey,
    Shall tell two tales en route to Canterbury,
    And, coming homeward, another two,
    Stories of things that happened long ago.
    Whoever best acquits himself, and tells
    The most amusing and instructive tale,
    Shall have a dinner, paid by us all,
    Here in this roof, and under this roof-tree,
    When we come back again from Canterbury."(P. 21)
  2. The Miller's Tale
    Chaucer, speaking as the narrator, to the reader
    "The miller is a lout, as you're aware;
    So was the reeve, and so were many more.
    They both told bawdy stories. Then beware,
    And do not lay upon me all the blame,
    Or take in earnest what is meant in fun."(P.81)
  3. The Prioress' Tale
    "The serpent Satan, our first enemy,
    Who has his wasps' nests in the heart of Jews,
    Swelled up: 'O Hebrew people!' was his cry,
    'Is it an honorable thing, think you,
    That such a boy should walk where he may choose,
    In scorn of you, and make of you his scoff,
    Singing songs that are an insult to your faith?'"(P.162)
  4. The Tale of Sir Topaz
    Told by Chaucer to the pilgrims
    "The knight was so adventurous
    He never slept in any house,
    But wrapped him in his hood;
    His pillow was his shining helm,
    While his charger grazes by him
    On herbs so fresh and good.
    And he drank water from the well
    And as did the knight Sir Perciva
    Whose armor was so fine;
    Till on a day--
    'No more of this, by God!' our host declared,
    'This arrant drivel of yours makes me tired!
    God be my witness, it makes my ears ache
    To listen to you spout the filthy stuff!
    The devil take such jingles! I suppose
    It's what's called doggerel."(P. 172-173)
  5. The Monk's Tale
    The Monk speaking
    "I shall lament, and in the Tragic Mode,
    The sufferings of those who once stood high,
    Who fell from eminence, so that none could
    Deliver them out of adversity."(P.178)
  6. The Prologue of the Wife of Bath's Tale
    The wife of Bath speaking
    "Experience--and no matter what they say
    In books--is good enough authority
    For me to speak of trouble in marriage.
    For ever since I was twelve years of age,
    Thanks be to God, I've had no less than five
    Husbands at church door--if one may believe
    I could be wed so often legally!" (P.220)
  7. "Purity in body and heart
    May please some--as for me, I make no boast.
    For, as you know, no master of a household
    Has all of his utensils made of gold;
    Some are wood, and yet they are of use.
    The Lord calls folk to Him in many ways,
    And each has his particular gift from God,
    Some this, some that, even as He thinks good." (P. 221)
  8. The Scholar's Tale
    Griselda has lost her children to the testing of her husband the Marquis, and these are his thoughts on her patience
    "The more the marquis pondered it, the more
    "He wondered at her patience, and if he
    Had not known of a certainty before
    Griselda loved her children perfectly,
    He'd have thought it was from craft or cruelty,
    From rancour, or from sheer hard-heartedness
    She endured this with an untroubled face." (P. 297)
  9. The Prologue of the Pardoner's Tale
    The Pardoner explains his philosophy on how he pardons
    "I only preach of avarice and the like,
    And in this way induce them to be free
    In giving cash--especially to me.
    Because my only interest is in gain;
    I've none whatever in rebuking sin.
    No, none! When they are pushing up the daises,
    Their souls, for all I care, can go to blazes." (P. 396)
  10. The Author's Valediction and Retraction
    Chaucer's closing part to the Canterbury Tales
    "And so I meekly beseech you, for God's mercy, that you pray for me, that Christ may have mercy upon me and forgive me my trespasses, in particular any translations and my authorship of works of worldly vanity, the which I revoke in this Retraction..." (P. 464)

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