The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Physician's Tale Summary

The Physician’s Tale involves a knight named Virginius who had it all: lots of friends, plenty of money, and a beautiful and loving wife and daughter. The daughter’s name was Virginia, and she in particular was known both for her beauty and her virtuousness.

One day, Virginia and her mother went to town on a religious errand. A judge named Appius who ran the town caught sight of Virginia and lusted after her, swearing he would do whatever it took to possess her. He hatched a plan with the help of a servant, Claudius, to falsely accuse Virginius of having kidnapped a young girl and held her in his house against her will, pretending she was his daughter (Virginia).

Although Virginius goes to court to plead his case, it’s of no use: the court declares that Virginia must be turned over to them. Virginius, apparently realizing that Appius wants Virginia to satisfy his own sexual desires, goes home and tells his daughter that her options are death or dishonor. Virginia faints, and when she wakes up, she prays, thanking God for letting her die a virgin. Virginius cuts off her head and takes it to the court. The people rush in, grab Appius, and hang him. Claudius is also sentenced to death, but Virginus begs to have his sentence commuted to exile.

Contents

Contents