Various Interruptions in the Canterbury Tales
- Chaucer: The Wife of Bath's Tale
- The Monk's Tale - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- SparkNotes No Fear Literature: The Canterbury Tales
No Fear Literature by SparkNotes features the complete edition of The Canterbury Tales side-by-side with an accessible, plain English translation.
There are many interruptions in the Canterbury Tales and some are more dramatic than others. The interruptions I find to have a more dramatic tone would be at the end of the Monk's Tale and at the end of the Wife of Bath's prologue. Both of these interruptions seem to be doing much more than what the reader is gathering on the surface, and have underlying meanings that have disturbing affects on the other pilgrims. The Knight is disturbed by the horrifying example of fallen aristocrats and the Friar and Summoner are either dumbing down something serious or are appalled at the Wife of Bath's mocking of the clergy.
The tale with the most horrifying dramatic interruption would be the one made by the Knight at the end of the Monk's Tale. The Knight interrupts the tale because the stories the Monk had just told were horrifying to the Knight, because they were about powerful aristocratic men who had fallen. This could very well make the Knight extremely nervous because it causes him to question his own mortality. The Knight doesn't wish to hear stories about people of a high decree falling, but about them rising up from poverty.
What is interesting about this interruption is that it brings to mind the very first interruption we encounter with the Miller. After the Knight tells his tale the next person in line was originally supposed to be the Monk, but he never got his chance since the Miller decided to lay an attack against, not only the Knight's tale, but the romance genre as well. So this is the Monk's response to the Knight's Tale and a counter attack showing that aristocratic men don't always rise and prosper and in many cases, illustrated by the Monk, fall and flounder.
This is a terrifying realization for the Knight he doesn't believe that men of his standard can come to an end the way the Monk tells in his tale. The Knight may have had another motive for stopping the Monk's tale. "In Line 51 of the General Prologue, it is said of the Knight that: "At Alisaundre he was, whan it was wonne". If the Knight was at the capture of Alexandria then he was probably part of the crusade organised by Peter I of Cyprus and hearing of the tragedy of his former military commander may have been what prompted him to interrupt."(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monk%27s_Tale). The Knight didn't want to hear the story of his former commander's demise because it hits a little too close to home and he isn't ready to face the reality of his own mortality.
Another interesting interruption would be the one made in the Wife of Bath's prologue. Near the end of her prologue the Friar interrupts her in order to compliment her and also insult her. From my reading it seemed that he was being very condescending when he told her that he was enjoying her story, but it was too long. The other pilgrims on the journey don't seem to like the Wife of Bath because she is a character who speaks openly and a woman isn't supposed to do that.
The summoner only interrupts in order to call the Friar out and to show everyone that he is fake and that he has no place interrupting this woman telling her tale. The fight between the two seems to be doing more than just annoy the audience. The Friar interrupting her is obviously trying to insult her, but in a nice way by saying that he is enjoying her tale. The Summoner goes one step further to say that the Friar is ruining the other pilgrims chance at hearing the tale, and this too is condescending since neither of them really want to hear what she has to say and they only care about proving that the other is horrible and immoral.
Another thing that this interruption is doing is highlighting the fact that in the first 185 lines of the prologue is a sermon joyeux where she is using humor to lecture about non-religious issues. The Friar and Summoner would have had obvious issues with this since she is mocking the clergy; so it would make sense that they would want to put an end to her mocking with their little meaningless tiff. The Friar and Summoner could also be laughing off the Wife's mocking and not be taking it seriously which could dilute he rest of the tale and take meaning away from the prologue.
Now before the Friar and Summoner have there little tiff, the Pardoner interrupts in the middle of the prologue. "Oh my God,” interrupted the Pardoner just then. “By God and Saint John, you sure do have a lot to say about marriage and sex! I thought about getting married soon, but I’m not so sure I want my wife to have control over my life and my body like that. Maybe I shouldn’t get married at all!" (http://www.sparknotes.com/nofear/lit/the-canterbury-tales/wife-of-baths-prologue/page_6.html). Here the Pardoner interrupts because he is appalled at what the Wife is saying about sex and marriage. He says that if this is how it is, then maybe I need to rethink this whole marriage thing. The Wife responds to him by explaining how her story hasn't even begun yet and how he should listen to her whole story before making his decisions on the matter. the Pardoner then allows the wife to continue, "My lady, please continue then, and don’t let any one of us interrupt you anymore. I’m sure all of us young men can learn from your experience!” said the Pardoner in return. (http://www.sparknotes.com/nofear/lit/the-canterbury-tales/wife-of-baths-prologue/page_6.html). This may or may not set up for the interruption that happens once the Wife finishes her prologue.
Here is a brief biography on Chaucer. I found it interesting to watch.