The Shipman's Tale

Jeff Lynn

Do you agree with my take on the moral of the story, or do you feel the Shipman's tale was just for entertainment?

The Shipman

This sailor most likely originated from Dartmouth. He often wore a woolen gown, and a strap across his waste for his dagger. As a shipman, he was exposed to the sun often which caused his skin to become rather tan. This gentleman ignored his conscience (determining what was right or wrong), and often stole wine. With that being said, he was an excellent sailor. A master in compass work, and had a great understanding of how to navigate the currents. Also, his ship was named Magdalen.
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The Tale

The story began with the Shipman describing a wealthy merchant family. The family consisted of a husband and a wife who often had many guests within their home. A third character, the Monk, joined the mix who was said to be a cousin to the Merchant. They weren't biological, but since they grew up in the same general area they referred to each other as such. The Merchant had a great love for the Monk.

The story truly begins when the Shipman told of how the Merchant had to leave for Flanders for business. Since he would be gone for several days, he decided to invite the Monk over to enjoy each other's company. The Monk began to talk to the Merchant's wife while the Merchant was doing inventory in his office. The wife confessed her hatred for her husband due to how mean and uncaring he was, and her love for the Monk. At the same time, the Monk told the wife how he also doesn't care for the husband, and loves her too. The wife ends the conversation asking for 100 francs (currency), and the Monk agreed to get it to her.

As the night went on, the Monk asked the merchant for 100 francs, and he gladly gave it to him without knowing the Monk would use the money to give to his own wife to receive pleasure. The story continues with the Merchant going to Flanders leaving the wife and the Monk alone. The Monk gives the husband's 100 francs to the wife, and does his business with her. The husband never found out his wife and best friend had slept together, or the fact he funded it.

The Moral

If you don't treat people with proper respect, then they may turn on you.
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The tale and the Shipman

The tale could suggest the shipman had gone through a time where he was tricked, cheated, or back-stabbed due to his own negligence. Because the Shipman never elaborated on the Merchant's poor character, it could provide evidence that he indeed suggest had been in the same shoes at the merchant simply due to the fact he doesn't want to tarnish his character. While it is impossible to know exactly how the tale relates to the Shipman, we know he had always ignored his conscience. The Shipman's behavior could absolutely lead to someone feeling he had not respected them, which should make one believe this story directly connects to the Shipman.


When the merchant was counting his inventory and the wife confessed her hatred for her husband, she stated she can't say anything bad about him to the Monk because she feels she did not have the right to do so. I felt there had to be some connection between her statement, and the time period the book was taken place in. It turns out, during this period of time, women were more-or-less servants to their husbands, which explains how hesitant the wife was when talking to the Monk.
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Vocabulary words

Sumptuous: expensive looking

Retinue: group of advisors

Abbey: buildings occupied by monks or nuns

Franc: french currency

Breviary: religious catholic book containing prayers, hymns, psalms, and readings