The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Squire's Tale Analysis

Because the Squire’s Tale is unfinished, it is difficult to analyze it well: is it missing pieces because parts of the manuscript have been lost, or because Chaucer never finished it in the first place? Or there may be a third explanation: the tale is interrupted by the Franklin precisely at the point where we might expect one of Chaucer’s “trick-interrupted” endings, such as that finishing the “Tale of Sir Thopas.”

A few points are clear. The tale breaks off just as the narrator is explaining how Cambalo won his wife. This may seem unremarkable, until we remember that Cambalo is Canacee’s brother, and that the Man of Law has already commented on how Canacee’s story is one of incest – and that Chaucer has previously been too decent to tell it. At the point at which the story breaks off, the narrator is about to tell the story of Cambalo and Canacee, but doesn’t. Is the tale missing or unfinished, or does it end here deliberately in order to protect Chaucer’s reputation? It is impossible to tell.

In addition, immediately after the Squire’s Tale breaks off, the Host announces what appears to be a change in the game. He describes everyone as telling “a tale or two,” rather than the four per pilgrim that were part of the original deal. This may indicate that Chaucer has realized that the scope of the project is simply too large, and that trimming the Squire’s Tale is one way to cut back.

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