The Canterbury Tales is commonly recognized as Geoffrey Chaucer’s key work, his opus magnum. The collection of stories is written almost entirely in verse. Yet, there is an exception of only two tales out of 24, which are in prose. Only The Parson’s Tale and The Tale of Melibee are the stories that diverge from the rest of the book.
The Canterbury Tales includes 24 stories, the majority of which are written in verse. The stories revolve around pilgrims traveling from Tabard Inn to Canterbury Cathedral. Almost all pilgrims narrate their tales using iambic pentameter. The Canterbury Tales’ poetic part is composed of rhyming couplets. This means that every two lines are joined by a rhyme. The author’s lyrical style is somewhat action-centered. This quality helps to develop the narrative, making the work an example of narrative poetry. Hence, Chaucer’s collection of stories can be categorized as poetry, although there are two crucial exceptions.
The Parson’s Tale and The Tale of Melibee are the exceptions since these stories are written in prose. The tales have no attributes of a verse, such as metrical composition, rhyme, or poetic structure. The choice to abandon poetry and turn to prose could be a way to describe the characters telling the stories. For instance, The Parson’s Tale is written in prose for a specific reason. The narrator explicitly states that he disapproves of poetry or fiction. Also, it is possible that The Parson’s Tale was added later to Chaucer’s opus magnum. It could explain the differences in style.