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The Summoner Quotes in The Canterbury Tales

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.

Geoffrey Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales' is a collection of tales told by pilgrims. These tales take a turn for the worse when the Summoner retaliates against the Friar. This lesson will examine quotes from the Summoner's tale.

Grumpy Travelers

In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, we are riding along with a group of travelers who are trading stories to help pass the time. The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories told on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket. If you have ever been on a long road trip, you know how quickly things can go south when you are stuck together for so long. When the stories begin to poke fun, travelers get insulted and begin to insult someone else. It is no good for anyone. This is exactly what happens with the Summoner.

Before the Summoner's tale, the Friar tells a story about a wicked Summoner who lies, blackmails and consorts with prostitutes. He even tries to con an old widow out of money. The Summoner takes the friar's story as a massive insult and uses his chance to speak to attack friars in general.

A summoner is a person affiliated with the medieval church who finds people who have 'sinned' and brings them to the holy court for punishment, usually in the form if a fine. It isn't a pretty job, nor is the physical appearance of the Summoner either. The Summoner of The Canterbury Tales is not much to look at underneath his cloak. He has sores all over his face, eats too much garlic and even ''Of his visage children were aferd.'' In other words, children were afraid of him. He's pretty gross - inside and out.

The Summoner's Turn to Speak

Before he tells his story, the Summoner takes a few moments to respond to the Friar's tale. He tells the other travelers ''Syn ye han herd this false frere lye, As suffreth me I may my tale telle.'' In other words, since they listened to the Friar's tale, they should now listen to the Summoner's tale in response. This quote translates into something like ''Since you have listened to this false Friar's lies, you should listen to mine the same way.''

Where Friar's Stay in Hell

The Summoner does not spare the Friar's feeling as he prepares everyone for his story. He explains that friar's are far worse than summoners. The Friar said in his story that he could provide details about hell that would make everyone tremble. The Summoner explains that friar's know the details of hell because they have been there. In fact, before his real story, the Summoner tells the listeners that there was once a Friar who got a tour of hell. When he got there he saw no friars and asked the demon tour guide if friars never end up in hell. The demon leads the friar to Satan himself and when Satan lifts his tail, ''as bees out swarmen from an hyve, Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve.'' In other words, a swarm of friars spew out of the Devil's anus. Suffice to say, the Summoner is pretty mad at friars in general.

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