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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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THE MONK'S TALE

After receiving some grief from the Host about his probable "hunting" of women (see Prologue), the Monk agrees to tell a tale-but it's not lively, as the Host hoped.


The Monk details the tragedies of sixteen famous men and one woman, their lives and downfalls: seven connected with the Old Testament (Lucifer, Adam, Samson, Nebuchadnezzar, Balthasar, Holofernes, Antiochus); five from the classics (Hercules, Nero, Julius Caesar, Alexander, Croesus); and five from history (Queen Zenobia, Kings Peter of Spain and of Cyrus, Bernardo of Lombardy, Ugolino of Pisa). He says he has one hundred tragedies to relate, but the Knight interrupts him.

The tragedy form was popular in the Middle Ages; this one comes from Boccaccio. Like Chaucer's tales, these are fairly monotonous tragedies and the moral-that Fortune takes away as well as gives-is obvious.

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