Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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Discussion - Canterbury Tales > Week 9 - The Canon's Yeoman's Tale

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Here comes the first tale not told by one of the original members of the company. I found it amusing that the Yeoman tells Harry Bailey that his master can tell many a merry tale, but the Yeoman will hardly let his master get a word in edgewise but goes on to tell a tale himself.

We're back to the theme of the dishonest churchman which we haven't seen for awhile. But the tale seems more about the evils of alchemy itself than about this particular Canon, doesn't it? (Or doesn't it?)

The role of alchemy in the middle ages (or as Chaucer calls it philosophie, including the search for the fabled philosopher's stone which will turn base metals into gold and silver) is worth some discussion here. I'm sure Madge has some web site references up her sleeve here, so I will want to add my comments on this until later.

But two questions arise. One, why did Chaucer introduce a new character to the Tales? What is the effect of the Canon and his Yeoman coming rushing up, almost abusing their horses to catch up with the pilgrims, instead of having the Canon and his Yeoman join the company at the start? And two, what if anything is the impact of this tale of obviously faked miracles coming right after the tale of the true miracles of St. Cecelia?


message 2: by Bill (last edited Mar 03, 2011 01:18AM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Everyman wrote: "And two, what if anything is the impact of this tale of obviously faked miracles coming right after the tale of the true miracles of St. Cecelia? ..."

In spite of the lines and lines of alchemy recipes--the most boring part of this book I've read yet--the story seems to me to be about avarice. How it motivates mountebanks and their victims as well motivating alchemists---avarice leading them all to believe they can get something for nothing.

St. Cecelia is obviously motivated by love of God and saving souls, so folks aren't going to find that as sufficient motive for faking a miracle. But people motivated by avarice, it seems, are going to believe in miracles as quickly as those motivated by reverence.


message 3: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 10, 2011 02:50AM) (new)

MadgeUK Chaucer's own attitude towards alchemy seems decidedly skeptical which is not surprising because Alchemists were the 'con artists' of his day, although there were still some who thought it was a 'divine' science. The story seems like a propaganda piece, a rant, denouncing alchemy in all its guises

The Canon is portrayed as a man whose attempts to pursue knowledge are a thinly veiled disguise for the pursuit of material wealth. What Chaucer also seems to be saying is that the true intellectual on a respectable quest, like the rest of the original Pilgrims, cannot be motivated by underlying desires that are contrary to knowledge and its pursuit, and which are considered sinful.


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