Thursday, 21 September 2017

Comment on the Husband-Wife Relationship in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.


    Or. Discuss Chaunticleer and Pertelote as Husband and Wife.  



In ‘The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ Chaucer treats Chaunticleer and Pertelote characters in such a way that they do not remain as mere cock and hen; rather their relationship reflects the nature of relation between husband and wife as we find it in human world.

The cock is kingly in his crowing and it is said that he is matchless in this regard. He is also knowledgeable in zodiac. His heroism is presented in the following lines:

"His comb was redder than the fyn coral,
    And batailled [indented] as it were a castel wal;

The description of Chaunticleer gives the impression that he is like a knight in the medieval romance. This sense is further reinforced when we find that he has seven hens under his governance. However, the husband-wife relationship is defined in the poem not in terms of Chaunticleer’s relation with all his wives but his relation with Pertelote only. 

Again, Chaucer invests human attributes to their relation. They address each other as a human husband and wife would do. Pertelote is Chaunticleer’s “herte deere” and “Madame”. In the same way, the cock is addressed as “husband” and “Sire”. 

However, the basic interest of the poem lies in the tension between husband and wife as they attempt to establish their dominance over each other. This begins when Chaunticleer becomes afraid of his dream in which he sees that he is being attacked and killed by a hound. Pertelote shakes Chaunticleer’s male ego by calling him a coward and declaring that women usually like husbands who are “hardy, wise and free”. She laughs away the dream saying that it has no significance. Then she precedes to show her intellectual superiority over her husband. She suggests that dreams are generated from overeating. Pertelote here introduces the medieval theory of four humours.

In this way, she seems to challenge the knowledge and dominance of her husband. This is why; Chaunticleer attempts to show that he is far more knowledgeable than Pertelote regarding the subject. He claims that there are many scholars with greater authority than Cato’s, who suggested that dreams are signs of troubles and refers to two stories. Besides these two stories, Chaunticleer presents several other incidents supporting the idea that dream must be dreaded. All examples verify the actuality of dream.

In this way, Chaucer provides us an amusing picture of a husband and a wife. Chaunticleer and Pertelote are not different from human beings in their marital relationship. They court each other and love each other. They also want to prove their worth before each other. 

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