Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The "Nun's Priest's Tale" is less a tale about the significance of dreams than it is a statement about the significance of fiction and the significance of statements of truth made about fiction. Chaucer makes his comment about the relationship between fiction and statements of truth about fiction through the use of two modes of discourse--the narrative and the discursive. Of the tale's 626 lines, 397 are given over to narrative discourse, the remaining 229 to the discursive. If we are to understand Chaucer's art in quantitative terms as Robert Jordan has suggested, we should not limit our focus of attention merely to the quantitatively larger fictional part; both parts must be reckoned with.1 As we shall see, the major speakers within the tale, Chauntecleer and the nun's priest, both use the narrative and the discursive modes; neither speaker, however, is successful in making adequate use of the discursive mode; both flatten--even mangle--the stories they tell with inept commentary. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how Chaucer constructed an ironic relationship between the narrative and discursive language of the tale to make a skeptical statement about the efficacy of interpretive language. As shall be demonstrated, Chaucer wants his audience to "beth war" less of dreams than of commentary upon dreams, and more importantly, to "beth war" less of fiction than of commentaries made about fiction.