Alliteration in The Canterbury Tales: Examples & Meaning

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you have seen or heard the term alliteration you may wonder what exactly it means. Lucky for us, 'The Canterbury Tales' has some really clear examples of alliteration. In this lesson we will look at three solid examples of alliteration.

What is Alliteration?

Alliteration is when words in a sentence use the same starting sound. Alliteration gives writing a more poetic feel. For example, the sentence ''Big, blue birds bounce through Bob's house'' uses the ''B'' sound to create a poetic rhythm. In The Canterbury Tales, there are many strong examples of alliteration.

The Wife of Bath's Prologue

One example of alliteration from The Canterbury Tales ia in 'The Wife of Bath's Prologue'. She talks to the group about how some men are cruel to women. She tells a story about a man who says that it is better to live a with a dangerous beast than a nagging wife. He had tons of stories about how evil women can be. The Wife of Bath asks ''Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose / the wo that in myn herte was, and pyne?'' In other words, she is asking who can imagine how much pain there was in her heart when she heard such stories and insults. The ''W'' sound is repeated throughout the sentence and is a solid example of alliteration.

The Prioress's Tale

Another example of alliteration comes in 'The Prioress's Tale'. Her story is about a boy who is murdered for being a Christian. After he is killed, his mother finds his body and is shocked to find that he is able to talk. When the boy is asked how he can still talk, he explains that the Virgin Mary placed a seed one his tongue and that he would be able to speak ''Til fro my tonge of taken is the greyn.'' In this alliterative sentence, the boy explains that he will be able to speak until someone takes the grain (the seed) from his tongue. The repetition of the 'T' sound is alliteration and gives the sentence a more poetic and rhythmic feel.

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