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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Monk's Tale
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 Monk's Prologue and Tale:
When Chaucer has finished narrating The Tale of Melibee, the Host says that his own wife is the contrary of Melibee's wife Prudence. The Host asks the Monk to tell the next tale (line 37) and asks whether the Monk is called John, Thomas or Albon (line 41-42). The Host jokingly remarks that the Monk would be an excellent breeding bird (line 57), but unfortunately religious man are not allowed to breed. The Monk is not offended (line 77) and announces that he will tell some tragedies of which he has a hundred in stock (line 84). A tragedy is a story from an old book about someone who falls from high degree and prosperity to misery, the Monk explains (line 85-89). Usually tragedies are written in hexameters (lines 90-91).

So the Monk starts narrating his collection of tragedies and the first tragedy is about Lucifer who falls from heaven (lines 111-118) followed by Adam who was driven from Paradise (lines 119-126). After these short tragedies follows the tragedy of Sampson, which is ten times longer than the previous tragedies of Lucifer and Adam. Sampson's secret is that his strength lies in the refusal to cut his hair. After telling this secret to his wife, she betrays him by telling his enemies. While sleeping, his hair and eyes are cut and he is imprisoned in a temple. However Sampson pushes two pillars of the temple down making the temple collapse killing everbody in it, including himself.

Next in line is the tragedy about Hercules, who had an extraordinary strength. Wearing a poisoned shirt finally killed him (lines (234-238). Nabugodonosor, the king of Babylon, defeated Israel twice, but ended up completely mad. His son Balthasar had his kingdom divided by Medes and the Persians. Cenobia, the queen of Palmyra, was beautiful and a successful warlord. She refuses to marry but was forced to marry Odenathus. She permitted sex, but only to get pregnant (lines 391-400). Finally she is defeated by the Romans and has to walk through the streets of Rome, chained in gold fetters (475-476).

King Pedro of Spain is killed by his brother. King Peter of Cypres ends up murdered. Bernabo Visconti and Ugolino of Pisa end up dead. The Roman emperor Nero creates a bloody mess. He cuts his mother open to see the womb where he came from and murders writer Seneca because he stated that emperors should be virtuous (lines 619-620). Nero kills himself before he is assassinated (line 661). Holofernes' head was cut off while he was sleeping (line 684).

The bloodshed goes on. King Antiochus is punished by God for attacking Jews. Alexander the Great is poisoned by his own people (line 772). Julius Ceasar is assassinated by Brutus (line 818). The last in line is Croesus, king of Lydia, who ends hanging on a tree (line 871).

The Knight interrupts the Monk as he is fed up with the Monk's tragedies (see the Prologue of The Nun's Priest's Tale that comes next). So the Knight saves the audience (and the readers of The Canterbury Tales) from more tiresome boring bloody tragedies. Thank you, Sir Knight.

The Monk mentions and describes biblical, classical, Greec, Roman and worldy leaders who all have one thing in common: once they were great, but fortune has abandoned them and they all end up dead after some painful agony and bloodshed. The Monk could have been a stallion (or breeding bird, to use another metaphor) creating new life, but bloodshed and death are the only things he speaks about. Well, basically tragedy is often a bloody mess, but to give the reader or audience some fresh air the author of a tragedy usually puts in some comic relief. No comic relief in the Monk's tragedies. No wander that he is interrupted by the Knight.

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