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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Tale of Melibee
Modern english adjacent to middle english

About The Canterbury Tales:
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.


About The Tale of Melibee:
One day a rich and mighty man called Melibeus leaves his house - and his wife Prudence and his daughter Sophie - to go for some riding or hunting or whatever. Although the doors and windows of the house are locked, three burglars force their way in, beat Prudence and severely injure Sophie. Melibeus wants to avenge himself but Prudence convinces him to take some advice and deliberation first. A gathering of old and young people from all social ranks deliberate about what to do and give different advices about revenge. Prudence convinces her husband to follow her advice to a peaceful settlement and to forgive the three burglars. The considerations of Melibeus and Prudence are full of quotations from the bible and from classical and churchly writers. The main question is "should a person avenge violence with violence?" At the end Melibeus forgives his enemies. And what about Sophie? What does she think? We don't know because the story doesn't tell. Her fate is obviously of no importance and buried under quotations.

The Tale of Melibee, told by Chaucer who is one of the pilrims on the way to Canterbury, is written in prose and its literary value is very modest. It is not much more than a tedious and almost endless summing up of quotations (from Cicero, Seneca, Ovid, Cato, St. Paul, St. Augustine and Jesus, to mention only a few) and moral ponderations about revenge, repentance and forgiveness. It seems that Chaucer is only showing off with his knowledge about the bible and classical and churchly writers. The plot of The Tale of Melibee is flat. Its only purpose seems to impress and stuff the reader with authoritative quotations.

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