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Free Study Guide for The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

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ONLINE BOOKNOTES -THE CANTERBURY TALES

The Cook’s Prologue

Summary


The Cook has thoroughly enjoyed The Reeve’s Tale and thinks that the Miller had justifiably received what he deserved. The Cook then offers to tell a funny story that actually happened in his city. The host jokingly adds that he must tell a good tale to compensate for all the stale pies that he has sold to the pilgrims. The Cook, named Roger, takes this joke in a good spirit and tells his tale.


The Cook’s Tale

Summary

An apprentice Cook lived in London. He was a good looking man of a stocky build and had stylish long black hair. He danced so well that people named him Perkin Reveler (Peter Playboy). He would sing and dance at every wedding feast. He was fonder of the tavern than of minding the shop-counter. He spent most of his time in the company of his own sort of people and went with them for dancing, singing and gambling. His master came to know about his loose habits when he noticed money missing from the shop-counter. Although the master tolerated Perkin, one day he decided that one rotten can spoil the entire basket and dismissed Perkin. However Perkin was unaffected by his dismissal and was instead glad because he was now free to enjoy himself all night. He moved in with his friend whose wife kept a shop to mask her activities as a prostitute.

Notes

The Cook is a repulsive figure. His suppurating sore suggests filthy personal habits and the Host accuses him of serving stale food. The Cook’s Tale is unfinished. It deals with an apprentice cook. It was probably intended as the last merry tale in the first fragment. Its plot is very similar to the earlier tales. The plot contains an eligible woman, the wife of the apprentice’s friend who keeps a shop to mask her activities as a prostitute. Perhaps this is an indication that there are two rivals vying for the hand of this lady - her dissolute husband and Perkin Reveler. However since the plot does not develop the reader does not get the full picture. Perhaps the Cook’s Tale was meant to be more raunchy than the Reeve’s tale through which Chaucer intended to depict the London low life. The setting of the Cook’s tale with its taverns and shops is a sharp contrast to the glamorous world of The Knight’s Tale.


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