In this article will discuss The Clerk’s Tale Summary in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
The Clerk tells the story of a marquis named Walter of Saluzzo, Italy. He is a wise, noble and an honorable man but he refuses to marry and spends his time seeking temporary pleasures.
His people, afraid of not having an heir to govern them after his death, confronts him and pleads him to marry.
He agrees but on the condition that he’d chose the woman he wants to marry irrespective of her class, religion, etc. and demands she must be treated with respect and considered as the daughter of the emperor. He sets the date of his marriage and people leave after thanking him.
One day, Walter is passing by the neighborhood and his eyes catch the sight of Griselde, the daughter of Janicula. At that very moment, Water realizes that she is courageous, virtuous and charitable and decides to marry her.
On the day of marriage. Walter doesn’t reveal the girl he’d marry and the people wondered that he’d not marry at all. That day Walter visits Janicula and asks the hand of her daughter in marriage. He gets astonished and readily agrees.
Walter sends two of his men to propose the marriage to Griselde on his behalf if she be virtuous and never disobeys him. Griselde agrees to never disobey him and they get married. After some time, she gives birth to a girl.
Walter wished to take the test of the woman who has just given birth to a daughter tell her he loves her but the public is not happy with her as they want a boy. He tells her that, according to the public, the daughter be put to death.
The wife agrees to what he says. Feeling sad for her wife, he doesn’t kill the daughter but sends her away to be brought up by his sister in Bologna. Griselde never speaks of her daughter again.
After four years, she gives birth to a boy but again Walter takes the same test asking her to let go of her son for the public doesn’t want the blood of Janicula as their heir. She agrees and accepts that she’s from lower birth and would do what pleases her husband.
He dismisses her and she comes back to peasantry when he decides to remarry and she is invited to his new wedding. Walter has already sent a letter to Bologna asking to send his both children back.
He fakes marrying his own daughter and observes Griselde obeying him and doing everything for him required in the marriage. Seeing this and having been impressed by this, he reveals both of his children to Griselde and they’re reunited and lives happily together.
In the end, the clerk mentions that the tale is the antithesis to the tale of the wife of Bath. He doesn’t want women to follow Griselde but wants them to see it as the allegory representing the human relationship with God