Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Canterbury Tales 5: The Man of Laws Tale

The next couple of weeks (at least) will be focused on the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. I have listened to it in its entirety once and then when I was thinking about how to talk about them I decided to break it down into the individual tales and give a post of each one.  I am going to limit my self to one post per story because some of them are so full of interesting things that I could post for a month and still have more to explore. 

"Sir Man of Law," quoth he, "so have ye bliss,
Tell us a tale anon, as forword is. the bargain
Ye be submitted through your free assent
To stand in this case at my judgement.
Acquit you now, and holde your behest; keep your promise
Then have ye done your devoir* at the least." 

well after the cook's half baked tale, the Reeve's twisted tale of revenge and rape, and the Miller's tale of adultery it is nice to see the Man of Law come along and give us a tale of honor, fidelity, and constancy.

100 word Summary:The Beautiful daughter of the Emperor of Rome Caught the eye of a pagan king. He could not live without her so he agreed to convert. His mother didn't like this and sent an army to kill the girl and those who traveled with her. The army put the girl adrift in the sea. Somehow she made it to England where she met and fell in love with another king with a mean mother. Once again she found herself drifting in a ship on the sea. But this time she drifted back to Italy. Where her husband found her and they lived happily ever after.
You know what is nice about this tale? it is a nice tale about good people. after the Miller's tale, and the Reeve's tale, and the disappointment that was the Cook's tale, it is just nice to hear a story about a damsel in distress who in the end gets to live happily ever after. 

This tale is very much like a fairy tale.  we have a pure heroine, evil 'stepmothers', miraculous salvations, and a good king (or prince). 

So we have a young girl Constance who is the pure virgin girl of faith. She was raised in a good family and was beautiful. so Beautiful that the king of Syria was willing to convert to Christianity for her. This is interesting to me at least because many times we see the female saints were often martyred because they refused to marry a pagan.  So I think it is very telling about this king that he would order his whole house hold to convert to Christianity So he cold have this women.  however she doesn't marry the king of Syria. and the troubles of her life come falling around her. In fact every time her life gets good something bad happens. She floats to England in boat, she makes a friend, the friend and husband convert to Christianity, the friend is murdered and Constance is blamed. she gets married, but her mother in law can't stand her. so forged letters are created and the girl finds herself a drift at sea again, but this time with her infant son. and yet in the end the bad guys get theirs, and Constance and her husband reconnect and live happily ever after. I just love that this one has a happy ending. you know it is kinda like the knights tale...

But this one has a good old fashioned moral to it, just like any good fairy tale. Good may suffer but it will  not be concord. Something interesting about Constance's story when compared to Snow white, or Cinderella. Constance may be long suffering, and she is quiet about her suffering, but her knight in shining armor doesn't just walk on the scene to give her a kiss and break the spell so they can live happily ever after. The king Alla comes home to find that his mother, who hated Constance, had tricked him and all those in his service. this is of course treason, and his mother was put to death. but the interesting this is that Alla felt he had to do penance for the killing of his mother. he had acted justly in putting her to death but for him that did not change the fact that he had commuted matricide. what rule or judge does penance for fulfilling the requirement of the law? and the thing is, if he hadn't gone to Rome to do penance he would have never found his wife. And that has it's own beauty. Particularly because it comes from a man who practices law. what would our courts be like today if lawyers were required to do penance for their actions?
any way join me on Saturday for the Wife of Bath's tale. 

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