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Main page » Non-Fiction » Science literature » Literature Studies » Shipman's Tale (Canterbury Tales )

Shipman's Tale (Canterbury Tales )


This story is set in St. Denis, France, where there was once a rich Merchant whose wife was of unparalleled beauty. They lived in a sumptuous house which was always filled with guests.

On one occasion, they had as one of their guests a handsome young Monk who enjoyed the Merchant’s hospitality.  Through conversation the Merchant and the Monk discovered that they were born in the same town so they must be related and be cousins. The Merchant was thrilled at this prospect and they called one another brother.

It was necessary for the Merchant to leave on business to Brussels, but before he left he locked himself up in his counting room in order to review his financial situation.

The Monk was taken with the Merchant’s wife’s beauty and took the opportunity, in the Merchant’s absence, to get to know her better.

The Monk noticed that she looked pale and wondered if perhaps her husband had kept her awake all night at play.  The wife protested and said that relations with her husband were not good, and she was close to taking her own life.  The Monk encouraged the wife to confide in him and she agreed to tell him concerning the marital neglect she suffered provided he kept it a secret.  The Monk takes the opportunity to tell the wife that he doesn’t regard himself as related to her husband.  The wife goes on to say that her husband does not give her any money and forces her to lead a frugal life. She begs the Monk to loan her some money so that she can buy some necessities for herself.  The Monk agrees to do this and then he kisses the wife passionately.

Before the Merchant departs to Brussels, the Monk asks for a loan from the Merchant of 100 francs.  The Merchant gladly agrees.

When the Merchant has gone, the Monk calls on the wife and gives her the money in exchange for a night in bed.

On the Merchant’s return home, he stops at the Monk’s Abbey to see how he fares, not to collect the loan.  The Monk advises the Merchant that he repaid the money to his wife a few days after the Merchant had left for Brussels.

On returning home, the Merchant scolds his wife for not having told him that the loan had been repaid.  He notices that she has bought some fine clothes and forgives her the extravagance.

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