The Shipman’s Tale

In this article will discuss The Shipman’s Tale Summary in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

A merchant of Saint-Denis, near Paris has married a young beautiful woman who spends too much money on her clothes and other things, leading the merchant towards bankruptcy.

He also has a friend, John, who is a monk. John is a frequent visitor at the home. One day, when the merchant is about to go Bruges, merchant invites John to come and visit him before he leaves.

Three of them have a merry time together and on the third day the monk woke up early and went to the garden, seeing the monk, the merchant’s wife also goes to the garden thinking something to be wrong with the monk. By this time, the merchant has already gone to the counting-house to balance his books. 

In the garden, the monk described no issue of his own but the wife complaints against her husband. She says that she needs money to pay her debts which she can’t ask her husband because he is so treacherous that wouldn’t give the money.

Hearing her complaints, Monk realizes that she is not happy with her husband and promises to give her a hundred francs when her husband has gone. The monk “caught her by the flanks” and they kiss and hug before parting.

The wife goes to the counting room asking her husband to leave the accounts, a request that the husband out his seriousness towards keeping the accounts by himself and clear.

At night, three of them have dinner together and when the merchant is about to leave, the monk takes him to a side and asks him to lend him hundred francs. The merchant happily gives him hundred francs assuring him to return whenever he has them.

The next Sunday, the monk, bald and clean shaved, returns to merchant’s house to his wife and offers to give her hundred francs in return of sex all night.  She agrees. Both of them fulfil their promises and the next morning the monk returns to his home.

When the merchant returns to town, he goes directly to the monk’s house. The monk feels happy to see and after talking about his business trip and other things, he tells him that he has left the money with his wife.

The merchant directly goes to his house where, at the gates, the wife meets him and they have a fine night in bed.

Finally, the merchant asks her about the money that the monk has left and she, in casual fashion replies, that she has spent that money on the clothes for it his responsibility and honour to keep her richly dressed. She will, she say, pay him back in the bed—“score it upon my tail.”