Lucy Vickery

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales retold

Woodcut of the Wife of Bath from Caxton’s second edition of The Canterbury Tales, c.1484 [Credit: The Granger Collection / Alamy Stock Photo]

In Competition No. 3200, you were invited to retell one of Chaucer’s tales in the style of another author.

The voices that dominated, in a medium–sized entry, were those of the Wife of Bath, the Pardoner, the Miller and the Nun’s Priest. Chaucer’s pilgrims were offered a free dinner for the best yarn, but this week’s winners will have to make do with a prize of £25 each. Nick MacKinnon, Frank McDonald, David Shields, Janine Beacham, Rosemary Sayer and Victoria Owens earn honourable mentions.

Wilt thou forgive those sins whereby, misled, A wonton wife, betroth’d four times before, Did, at the fourth one’s funeral, choose to wed A clerk possessed of vigour and allure? This woman then did justify her lust By citing such as Solomon who took More wives than one and thereby bid us trust All that is writ in God’s most Holy Book; Forgive thou wilt, as thou forgave the knight Who raped a maiden fair and yet was spared By learning that a wife knows best what’s right, And thus, by Grace, in God’s forgiveness shared. Bathed in baptism’s pool this Wife of Bath And errant knight were destined both to win Joys due to those who find the narrow path And turn their backs on sacrilege and sin. Alan Millard/John Donne/The Wife of Bath

It was the tolling Bell, for Death, Aroused three angry Friends. ‘Let us kill Death and rid the World Of him who plots our Ends.’   They asked an Old Man where Death dwelt; ‘That tree’, so they were told. But in Death’s place was Treasure, heaped. They planned to seize the gold.   ‘Let’s stay the night, then: equal shares!’ For Wine went one (of three), While two resolved on his return To kill him greedily.   They did the Deed, drank deep, unknown How poison’d he the Wine All three men died; triumphant Death Achieved his Great Design. D.A. Prince/Coleridge/The Pardoner

Three tramps: Bim, Bam, Bom. Set out to find Death, of all things.

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