Vocab 7

Refute – v. to prove false; to disprove
Repudiate – v. to reject; to disown
Sanctimonious – adj. pretend to be devout
Sanguine – adj. cheerful; optimistic; hopeful
Soporific – adj. sleep inducing; boring; sleepy
Sordid – adj. vile; filthy
Stymie – v. to get in the way of; to hinder
Temperate – adj. mild; moderate; restrained
Urbane – adj. poised; sophisticated; refined
Virtuoso – n. a masterful musician

Chaucer’s Retraction

Now I pray to all who hear or read this little treatise, that if there is anything in it that they like, they thank our Lord Jesus Christ for it, from whom proceeds all wisdom and goodness. And if there is anything that displeases them, I pray also that they ascribe it to the fault of my ignorance and not to my will, which would readily have spoken better if I had the knowledge. For our book says, “All that is written is written for our doctrine,” and that is my intention. Therefore I beseech you, for the mercy of God, that you pray for me that Christ have mercy on me and forgive my sins, especially my translations and compositions of worldly vanities, which I revoke in my retractions: 1085 such as the book of Troilus and Criseyde, and the book of The House of Fame, the book of The Legend of Good Women, The Book of the Duchess, the book of Saint Valentine’s day of The Parliament of Fowls, The Canterbury Tales (those that tend toward sin), the book of the Lion, and many another book, if they were in my remembrance, and many a song and many a lecherous lay; that Christ for his great mercy forgive my sins. But for the translation of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and other books of saints’ legends, homilies, moralities, and devotions, I thank our Lord Jesus Christ and his blessed Mother, and all the saints of heaven, beseeching them that they from henceforth unto my life’s end send me grace to lament my sins, and to meditate upon the salvation of my soul, and grant me the grace of true contrition, confession, and satisfaction for sins in this present life, 1090 through the benign grace of him who is king of kings and priest over all priests, who bought us with the precious blood of his heart; so that I may be one of those at the day of judgment that shall be saved. Qui cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivit et regnat Deus per omnia secula. Amen.


Here ends the book of The Canterbury Tales,
compiled by Geoffrey Chaucer,
on whose soul may Jesus Christ have mercy.

Chaucer Study Guide


Terms (be able to define the following):




Middle English

Frame narrative

Estates satire

Four humors







People/Characters (be able to identify and distinguish between the following):



Wife of Bath








Knight (pilgrim and the knight from the Wife’s Tale)

Harry Bailey

Old man

Old woman





Fill-ins (be able to provide basic plot and other information about the following):


Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale

Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale

Events and characters in the “General Prologue”


Concepts (be able to write about the following):

How pilgrims match their tales

How Chaucer subtly critiques pilgrims in the “GP”

Symbolism in the “Pardoner’s Tale”

How the Wife embodies proto-feminist values

Irony in the Wife’s and/or Pardoner’s tales

Significance of Wife’s various digressions

Significance of Chaucer’s retraction

Difference between Harry’s plan and Chaucer’s plan for the Canterbury Tales

Wife of Bath’s Prologue

“To say, ‘Go where you please, wife,’ would be best, / ‘Have fun, I won’t believe tales told in malice, / For I know you to be a good wife, Alice.’ / We love no man who keeps such watchful eyes / On where we go, our liberty we prize.”

"And when I saw that he would never part
With reading in this curséd book all night,
Three leaves all of a sudden I tore right                   790
Out of his book while he was reading it,
Then with my fist I gave his cheek a hit
And he fell backwards right into the fire.
He jumped up like a lion full of ire
And with his fist he hit me in the head,                    795
And I lay on the floor then as if dead.
And when he saw how stilly there I lay,
He was aghast and would have run away,
But then at last out of my swoon I woke.
'O false thief, have you slain me?' then I spoke.           800
'You've murdered me for all my land, that's why,
Yet let me kiss you now before I die.'
  "Then near he came and knelt down by my side,
And said, 'Dear sister Alison, my bride,
So help me God, I'd never hit my dame;                      805
For what I've done you are yourself to blame.
Forgive me, I beseech you and implore.'
And then I hit him on the cheek once more.
'This much I am avenged, O thief,' I said.
'I can no longer speak, I'm nearly dead.'                   810
  "But in the end, for all we suffered through,
We finally reached accord between us two.
The bridle he put wholly in my hand
To have complete control of house and land,
And of his tongue and hands as well--and when               815
He did, I made him burn his book right then.
And when I had by all my mastery
Thus gained for myself all the sovereignty--
When he had said to me, 'My own true wife,
Do as you please the balance of your life;                  820
Keep your honor as well as my estate'--
From that day on we never had debate.
I was as true as any wife you'd find
From India to Denmark, and as kind,
So help me God, and he was so to me.                        825
I pray that God who sits in majesty
Will bless his soul for all his mercy dear.
Now I will tell my tale if you will hear."