A Cock Doodle Dont English Literature Essay

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When you hear the word "cock" the first thing that comes to mind isn't usually a tale about the dangers of flattery; however if you lived in Geoffrey Chaucer's times you would recognize this to be a tale straight out of his book, The Canterbury Tales. This particular tale in his book was "The Nun's Priest's Tale", fittingly told by a priest, a clergyman. He gives us a beast tale in which we learn of Chanticleer the cock's misfortunes due to a blatant disregard of his dreams and a compromising situation he gets himself into due to falling victim to flattery. Through Chanticleer's mistakes Chaucer gives us overtones of a theme of human suffering.

To illustrate an image of human suffering, Chaucer first introduces us to our main characters, the cock Chanticleer and the hen Pertelote. The tale begins on a sour note, as we start off hearing the horrifying screams and cries of Chanticleer, the most prized rooster in the yard and the main source of eye candy to the hens there. Trying to find out what ailed him, Pertelote, Chanticleers most beloved hen in the yard, rushes to his side to find out that he had suffered from a nightmare. In his own words, "I dreamt that roaming up and down a while / Within our yard I saw a kind of beast, / A sort of hound that tried or seemed at least / To try and seize me … would have killed me dead! / His colour was a blend of yellow and red, / His ears and tail were tipped

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with sable fur / Unlike the rest; he was a russet cur." (Chaucer, 216). Clearly such a dream is an omen to Chanticleer and foreshadows coming events for us, however Pertelote was outraged that Chanticleer, the epitome of all a cock should be, would fall victim to such a trivial matter. She berates our story's poor roster for such a display of cowardice and appearing so feeble in front of her; she comments saying that dreams are nothing but a result of physical illness. Chanticleer however tries to convince Pertelote otherwise giving her stories of men who had taken heed of the message their dreams conveyed and in some cases such observance saved their lives. However, unable to agree on who is right, they both decide to literally "hit the hay" that night. Later in the month of May Chanticleer's dream finally becomes reality when all of a sudden "A coal-tipped fox of sly iniquity / That had been lurking round the groove for three / Long years, that very night burst through and passed / Stockade and hedge, as Providence forecast, / Into the yard where Chanticleer the Fair / Was wont, with all his ladies, to repair." (Chaucer, 225). Chanticleers dream had finally had finally caught up to him as the fox he envisioned early was now right in front of him! Had Chanticleer remembered and took note of his dream he would have been saved the consequences of meeting the fox. Had that been the case though this particular tale would not have a theme of human suffering for Chanticleer did not give thought to his dream and instead laid in the mouth of the fox minutes later believing that he was safe in his presence.

To further add insult to the injury of human suffering, Chaucer even threw in another element into his tale. This element was the moral which was "…be on your guard / Against the flatterers of the world, or yard…" (Chaucer, 231). This moral was made apparent the day the fox showed up in the yard. Again as we've heard before, Chanticleer allowed the fox to get close as

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he chose not to take the warning of his dream to heart. That much closer to his meal the fox then began to spout the one thing that would spell Chanticleers demise: flattery. Chanticleer being the most handsome and musical rooster on the land fell victim to the fox's word as he said thus, "Dear sir, I was not even spying on you! Truly I came to do no other thing / Than just to lie and listen to you sing. You have as merry a voice as God has goven / To any angel in the courts of Heaven; / To that you add a musical sense as strong / As had Boethius who was skilled in song… Oh, for charity of heart, / Can you not emulate your sire and sing?" (Chaucer, 227). And just as do many men in our day and age fall victim to such sweet words, so did Chanticleer who was taken by at the neck by the fox the second he tried to impress him with a wonderful coo. Truly the theme of suffering was present as it seemed that the cock's day of singing were over, however true irony was later seen at the end of the tale; as luck would have it Chanticleer was still alive in the fox's mouth and was able to only free himself with similar flattery.

Through Chanticleers mishaps and close encounter with death we can see an illustration of the theme of human suffering painted by the events that took place. However, like all things read from a book of tales, the story was just that, a tale. One meant to warn us of the reasons for our suffering clearly as we saw nothing but misery and suffering almost take Chanticleers life. It is the theme of human suffering and the moral of this tale that we should take to heart, and that would be "…be on your guard / Against the flatterers of the world, or yard…" (Chaucer, 231).

Work Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Nun's Priest's Tale." The Canterbury Tales. Penguin Classics ed.

Trans. Nevil, Coghill. 1951. New York: Penguin Group, 2003, pages 216-231. Print.

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