451 Study Questions for Chaucer's
Useful Middle English terms:
whilom (once upon a time), bode (lived)
Review the Cook's Portrait in the General
- THE COOK OF LONDON (ALIAS HODGE
- Who does the Cook apparently work for
in the pilgrimage company?
- What does the Cook have on his shin?
What does this indicate about the Cook's health or hygiene?
what color is the seepage coming from a "mormal"
according to medieval medical books?]
- What normal color is the "blankmanger"
that the Cook fixes? [Hint:
this dish comes from the French words blanc and
mangere (to eat), which provides a clue] Why
is this particularly gross, given earlier details about
the Cook's health?
Identify the following characters:
Prologue: The Host (Harry Bailey),
Hodge of Ware (alias The Cook of London)
Tale Itself: Perkin Revelour
"Hodge" is a shortened version of what common
English name today?
Why were hostellers and cooks economic rivals in the 14th
Where is Ware located? (I.e., it is a suburb of a larger
city today--what city?)
(From "The Cook's Prologue"):
- What pilgrim is so amused by the Reeve's Tale that "he
clawed him on the bak" (i.e., he slapped the Reeve's
- The Cook, however, seems to miss the point of the Reeve's
tale. The Reeve concludes the moral of his tale by stating,
"a gylour shal hymself begyled be." What practical
(rather than ethical) conclusion does the Cook draw
"The Reeve's Tale" in lines 4331-34?
- According to Hodge of Ware, where will his story be
set, if he is allowed to tell the next tale?
- Who grants Hodge of Ware permission to continue?
- What does Harry Bailey declare about Hodge's cooking
(i.e., how does he insult the Cook?)
- What is a "stubbel goose"?
- Why does the Cook get cursed by pilgrims, according
- Food for thought: Why do you suppose Harry Bailey attacks
the Cook's food? Does he have an economic incentive
here? Is is
- Alternatively, what have the Miller, the Reeve, and
the Cook each done in terms of Harry's organization for
the storytelling game? Why is that likely to make Harry
- How does Harry Bailey try to soften the blow of his
earlier words immediately after attacking the quality
of the Cook's food? Why does he tell him "be nat
- How does Hodge turn Harry Bailey's admonition around?
(i.e., why does the tell Harry Bailey not to be upset?)
- What occupation is going to feature prominently in "The
Cook's Tale" according to the conclusion of the "The
Cook's Prologue"? Why is this likely to anger Harry
Bailey the Host?
(From "The Cook's Tale" itself):
- What is our protagonist's name in this
- What does "revelour" mean?
- What is this "shop" that Perkin
doesn't like as much as the tavern?
- What are three of Perkin's favorite
- Why would "dicing" be so scandalous
in the fourteenth-century?
- With whom does Perkin "bood"
(live) in the opening section of our story?
- How does Perkin fund his partying?
- Why does Perkin get kicked out of his
- What does Perkin's master fear will
happen to the other apprentices if he keeps Perkin in
- After being kicked out of his apprenticeship,
Perkin settles in with two people--a married couple. What
is the husband's occupation? What is the wife's occupation?
A. "For many a pastee
hastow laten blood,
And many a Jakke of Dovere hastow soold
That hath been twies hoot and twies coold.
Of many a pilgrym hastow Christes curse,
For of thy percely yet they fare the wors,
That they han eten with thy stubbel goos,
For in thy shoppe is many a flye loos."
B. "Now telle on,
gentil Roger by thyname
But yet I pray thee, be nat wroth for game:
A man may seye ful sooth in game and pley."
C. A prentyce whilom dwelled
in oure citee,
And of a craft of vitailliers was hee.
Gaillard he was as goldfynch in the shawe,
Broun as a berye, a propre short felawe,
With lookes blake, ykembd ful fetisly.
Dauncen he koude so wel and joily
That he was cleped Perkyhn Revelour.
D. Anon he sente his bed
and his array
Unto a compeer of his owene sort,
That lovede dys, and revel, and disport,
And hadde a wyf that heeld for contenance
A shoppe, and swyved for hir sustenance.
Why does the Cook use an apprentice to
a vitailler as his protagonist? (What is a vitailler?)
How does this tale reveal something of
the Cook's own character?
How does this story fulfill (or not fulfill)
the conventions of the fabliau? If it were finished,
could it be some other sort of genre? (V. A. Kolve, for
instance, points out that the introductory elements may
not match the later unfinished elements in tone, mood, and
One of the two most significant manuscripts,
the Hengwyrt, leaves the last page blank with a note saying,
"Of this cokes tale maked Chaucer na moore."
Some scholars such as M. C. Seymour argue
that Chaucer finished the Cook's Tale, but that the bulk
of the tale was lost before it began being copied (See his
1990 article in Chaucer Review). Most scholars,
however, assume Chaucer never finished the work. Why do
you suppose Chaucer never finishes the Cook's Tale? Did
he simply run out of time and good health? Or has he in
Fragment I somehow "painted himself into a corner"
by focusing on the theme of "quyting" and revenge"?
Could Chaucer continue this theme indefinitely?
John Bowers shows that several later
scribes in the 1400s and 1500s added their own conclusions
to this tale--the Bodley Manuscript 686 being a prominent
example. Why do you suppose so many later scribes wanted
to add their own endings to this tale when they made less
effort to add endings to other incomplete tales?
Alternatively, could this tale be complete
as it currently stands? Professor Stanley in Poetica
5 argues that the story is a sort of ellipsis. The idea
is that Chaucer wants to suggest that things just get
"dirtier" and more "vengeful" in a
non-ending spiral, so he gracefully drops the curtain
and moves on to another set of stories. What do you think?