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Free Study Guide-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free BookNotes
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THE TALES: SUMMARIES AND NOTES

The Clerk’s Tale

Part 4

Summary

Four years passed away and Griselda gave birth to a male heir. When her son was barely two years old, the marquis once again decided to test Griselda’s patience. He told her that her son would also be slain. Griselda patiently complied to her husband’s will. The bodyguard again arrived and made Griselda believe that her son would be slain but in stead conveyed the prince to Bologna.

The marquis marveled at his wife’s patience and unchanged love. However he was still not convinced. When his daughter grew 12 years old, he had a Papal dispensation forged, granting him permission to remarry. When Griselda heard this news she resolved to patiently undergo Fortune’s adversity. In the meanwhile the marquis wrote a letter to Bologna instructing his sister to bring both the children home to Saluzzo in utmost secrecy. It was to be said that the maiden was going to marry the marquis. Thus the young girl was dressed for the wedding and her brother was also splendidly dressed.

Part 5

Summary

In the meanwhile the ruthless marquis decided to test Griselda’s patience to the utmost. He told her that he had acquired a Papal dispensation to remarry as his subjects considered Griselda to be of a very low birth and wanted him to marry a woman of a higher birth. He ordered her to go back to her father’s house and to take her dowry along. Griselda firmly replied that she had always been his humble servant and would willingly return to her father if he so desired. She recalls that she had not brought any dowry and had come dressed in rags. She then strips away all the rich clothes, jewels and the wedding ring and requests to be allowed to wear an old smock to hide her nudity. She walked barefoot to her father’s house. However she remained a paragon of wifely patience and did not weep or give any other hint of her distress.


Part 6

Summary

The Earl of Panago arrived with the would be marchioness. The marquis then called Griselda and asked her to supervise the decoration of the rooms. Griselda patiently assisted in preparing the bedrooms and the banquet hall. Clothed in rags Griselda cheerfully went to receive the bride. She also unceasingly praised the young girl and her brother. When the marquis saw Griselda’s patience and constancy, he could not bear the deception any longer. He revealed that the young girl was her own daughter and her brother would certainly become his heir. He revealed that they had been secretly brought up in Bologna. The cruel tests had only been designed to ascertain her strength of will and constancy.

Griselda was happily reunited with her children and they lived happily for many years. Eventually her daughter was married to the worthiest lord in Italy and her son ascended the throne after the marquis’ death.

The tale ends with the Clerk’s statement that it would be intolerable for women to imitate Griselda’s patience and humility. But everybody should meekly accept God’s will and face adversity with courage and fortitude. He then tells the Wife of Bath that he will sing a song in praise of Griselda.

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