Given Chaucer’s project of Three Estates Satire, what does the tale moralise or mock (50 words)?
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
A widow poor, somewhat advanced in age, Lived, on a time, within a small cottage
Beside a grove and standing down a dale.
This widow, now, of whom I tell my tale,
Since that same day when she’d been last a wife Had led, with patience, her strait simple life,
For she’d small goods and little income-rent;
By husbanding of such as God had sent
She kept herself and her young daughters twain. Three large sows had she, and no more, ’tis plain, Three cows and a lone sheep that she called Moll. Right sooty was her bedroom and her hall, Wherein she’d eaten many a slender meal.
Of sharp sauce, why she needed no great deal, For dainty morsel never passed her throat; Her diet well accorded with her coat. Repletion never made this woman sick;
A temperate diet was her whole physic,
And exercise, and her heart’s sustenance.
The gout, it hindered her nowise to dance,
Nor apoplexy spun within her head;
And no wine drank she, either white or red;
Her board was mostly garnished, white and black, With milk and brown bread, whereof she’d no lack, Broiled bacon and sometimes an egg or two,
For a small dairy business did she do.
A yard she had, enclosed all roundabout
With pales, and there was a dry ditch without,
And in the yard a cock called Chanticleer.
In all the land, for crowing, he’d no peer.
His voice was merrier than the organ gay
On Mass days, which in church begins to play; More regular was his crowing in his lodge
Than is a clock or abbey horologe.
By instinct he’d marked each ascension down
Of equinoctial value in that town;
For when fifteen degrees had been ascended, Then crew he so it might not be amended.
His comb was redder than a fine coral,
And battlemented like a castle wall.
His bill was black and just like jet it shone;
Like azure were his legs and toes, each one;
His spurs were whiter than the lily flower;
And plumage of the burnished gold his dower.
This noble cock had in his governance
Seven hens to give him pride and all pleasance, Which were his sisters and his paramours
And wondrously like him as to colours,
Whereof the fairest hued upon her throat
Was called the winsome Mistress Pertelote. Courteous she was, discreet and debonnaire, Companionable, and she had been so fair
Since that same day when she was seven nights old, That truly she had taken the heart to hold
Of Chanticleer, locked in her every limb;
He loved her so that all was well with him.
But such a joy it was to hear them sing,
Whenever the bright sun began to spring,
In sweet accord, “My love walks through the land.” For at that time, and as I understand,
The beasts and all the birds could speak and sing. So it befell that, in a bright dawning,
As Chanticleer ‘midst wives and sisters all
Sat on his perch, the which was in the hall,
And next him sat the winsome Pertelote,
This Chanticleer he groaned within his throat
Like man that in his dreams is troubled sore.
And when fair Pertelote thus heard him roar,
She was aghast and said: “O sweetheart dear, What ails you that you groan so? Do you hear? You are a sleepy herald. Fie, for shame!”
And he replied to her thus: “Ah, madame,
I pray you that you take it not in grief:
By God, I dreamed I’d come to such mischief,
Just now, my heart yet jumps with sore affright. Now God,” cried he, “my vision read aright
And keep my body out of foul prison!
I dreamed, that while I wandered up and down Within our yard, I saw there a strange beast
Was like a dog, and he’d have made a feast
Upon my body, and have had me dead.
His colour yellow was and somewhat red;
And tipped his tail was, as were both his ears,
With black, unlike the rest, as it appears;
His snout was small and gleaming was each eye. Remembering how he looked, almost I die;
And all this caused my groaning, I confess.”
“Aha,” said she, “fie on you, spiritless!
Alas!” cried she, “for by that God above,
Now have you lost my heart and all my love;
I cannot love a coward, by my faith.
For truly, whatsoever woman saith,
We all desire, if only it may be,
To have a husband hardy, wise, and free,
And trustworthy, no niggard, and no fool,
Nor one that is afraid of every tool,
Nor yet a braggart, by that God above!
How dare you say, for shame, unto your love
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That there is anything that you have feared? Have you not man’s heart, and yet have a beard? Alas! And are you frightened by a vision?
Dreams are, God knows, a matter for derision. Visions are generated by repletions
And vapours and the body’s bad secretions
Of humours overabundant in a wight. The humours
Surely this dream, which you have had tonight, Comes only of the superfluity
Of your bilious irascibility,
Which causes folk to shiver in their dreams
For arrows and for flames with long red gleams, For great beasts in the fear that they will bite,
For quarrels and for wolf whelps great and slight; Just as the humour of melancholy
Causes full many a man, in sleep, to cry,
For fear of black bears or of bulls all black,
Or lest black devils put them in a sack.
Of other humours could I tell also,
That bring, to many a sleeping man, great woe; But I’ll pass on as lightly as I can.
“Lo, Cato, and he was a full wise man, famous for common sense
Said he not, we should trouble not for dreams? Now, sir,” said she, “when we fly from the beams, For God’s love go and take some laxative;
On peril of my soul, and as I live,
I counsel you the best, I will not lie,
That both for choler and for melancholy
You purge yourself; and since you shouldn’t tarry, And on this farm there’s no apothecary,
I will myself go find some herbs for you
That will be good for health and pecker too;
And in our own yard all these herbs I’ll find,
The which have properties of proper kind
To purge you underneath and up above.
Forget this not, now, for God’s very love!
You are so very choleric of complexion.
Beware the mounting sun and all dejection,
Nor get yourself with sudden humours hot;
For if you do, I dare well lay a groat
That you shall have the tertian fever’s pain,
Or some ague that may well be your bane.
A day or two you shall have digestives
Of worms before you take your laxatives
Of laurel, centuary, and fumitory,
Or else of hellebore purificatory,
Or caper spurge, or else of dogwood berry,
Or herb ivy, all in our yard so merry;
Peck them just as they grow and gulp them in.
Be merry, husband, for your father’s kin!
Dread no more dreams. And I can say no more.” “Madam,” said he, “gramercy for your lore. Nevertheless, not running Cato down,
Who had for wisdom such a high renown,
And though he says to hold no dreams in dread, By God, men have, in many old books, read
Of many a man more an authority
That ever Cato was, pray pardon me,
Who say just the reverse of his sentence,
And have found out by long experience
That dreams, indeed, are good significations,
As much of joys as of all tribulations
That folk endure here in this life present.
There is no need to make an argument;
The very proof of this is shown indeed.
“One of the greatest authors that men read Cicero
Says thus: That on a time two comrades went
On pilgrimage, and all in good intent;
And it so chanced they came into a town
Where there was such a crowding, up and down, Of people, and so little harbourage,
That they found not so much as one cottage Wherein the two of them might sheltered be. Wherefore they must, as of necessity,
For that one night at least, part company;
And each went to a different hostelry
And took such lodgment as to him did fall.
Now one of them was lodged within a stall,
Far in a yard, with oxen of the plow;
That other man found shelter fair enow,
As was his luck, or was his good fortune, Whatever ’tis that governs us, each one.
“So it befell that, long ere it was day,
This last man dreamed in bed, as there he lay, That his poor fellow did unto him call,
Saying: ‘Alas! For in an ox’s stall
This night shall I be murdered where I lie.
Now help me, brother dear, before I die.
Come in all haste to me.’ ‘Twas thus he said.
This man woke out of sleep, then, all afraid;
But when he’d wakened fully from his sleep,
He turned upon his pillow, yawning deep, Thinking his dream was but a fantasy.
And then again, while sleeping, thus dreamed he. And then a third time came a voice that said
(Or so he thought): ‘Now, comrade, I am dead; Behold my bloody wounds, so wide and deep! Early arise tomorrow from your sleep,
And at the west gate of the town,’ said he,
A wagon full of dung there shall you see, Wherein is hid my body craftily;
Do you arrest this wagon right boldly.
They killed me for what money they could gain. And told in every point how he’d been slain, With a most pitiful face and pale of hue.
And trust me well, this dream did all come true;
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For on the morrow, soon as it was day, Unto his comrade’s inn he took the way; And when he’d come into that ox’s stall, Upon his fellow he began to call.
“The keeper of the place replied anon,
And said he: ‘Sir, your friend is up and gone;
As soon as day broke he went out of town.’
This man, then, felt suspicion in him grown, Remembering the dream that he had had,
And forth he went, no longer tarrying, sad,
Unto the west gate of the town, and found
A dung-cart on its way to dumping-ground,
And it was just the same in every wise
As you have heard the dead man advertise;
And with a hardy heart he then did cry
Vengeance and justice on this felony:
‘My comrade has been murdered in the night,
And in this very cart lies, face upright.
I cry to all the officers,’ said he
‘That ought to keep the peace in this city.
Alas, alas, here lies my comrade slain!’
“Why should I longer with this tale detain?
The people rose and turned the cart to ground,
And in the center of the dung they found
The dead man, lately murdered in his sleep.
“O Blessed God, Who art so true and deep!
Lo, how Thou dost turn murder out alway!
Murder will out, we see it every day. Murder will out!
Murder’s so hateful and abominable
To God, Who is so just and reasonable,
That He’ll not suffer that it hidden be;
Though it may skulk a year, or two, or three, Murder will out, and I conclude thereon. Immediately the rulers of that town,
They took the carter and so sore they racked
Him and the host, until their bones were cracked, That they confessed their wickedness anon,
And hanged they both were by the neck, and soon. “Here may men see that dreams are things to dread. And certainly, in that same book I read,
Right in the very chapter after this
(I spoof not, as I may have joy and bliss),
Of two men who would voyage oversea,
For some cause, and unto a far country,
If but the winds had not been all contrary,
Causing them both within a town to tarry,
Which town was builded near the haven-side.
But then, one day, along toward eventide,
The wind did change and blow as suited best.
Jolly and glad they went unto their rest.
And were prepared right early for to sail;
But unto one was told a marvelous tale.
For one of them, a-sleeping as he lay,
Did dream a wondrous dream ere it was day.
He thought a strange man stood by his bedside And did command him, he should there abide, And said to him: ‘If you tomorrow wend,
You shall be drowned; my tale is at an end.’
He woke and told his fellow what he’d met
And prayed him quit the voyage and forget;
For just one day he prayed him there to bide.
His comrade, who was lying there beside,
Began to laugh and scorned him long and fast.
‘No dream,’ said he, ‘may make my heart aghast, So that I’ll quit my business for such things.
I do not care a straw for your dreamings,
For visions are but fantasies and japes.
Men dream, why, every day, of owls and apes, And many a wild phantasm therewithal;
Men dream of what has never been, nor shall.
But since I see that you will here abide,
And thus forgo this fair wind and this tide,
God knows I’m sorry; nevertheless, good day!’ “And thus he took his leave and went his way.
But long before the half his course he’d sailed,
I know not why, nor what it was that failed,
But casually the vessel’s bottom rent,
And ship and men under the water went,
In sight of other ships were there beside,
The which had sailed with that same wind and tide “And therefore, pretty Pertelote, my dear,
By such old-time examples may you hear
And learn that no man should be too reckless
Of dreams, for I can tell you, fair mistress,
That many a dream is something well to dread “Why in the ‘Life’ of Saint Kenelm I read Anglo-Saxon saint
(Who was Kenelphus’ son, the noble king
Of Mercia), how Kenelm dreamed a thing;
A while ere he was murdered, so they say,
His own death in a vision saw, one day.
His nurse interpreted, as records tell,
That vision, bidding him to guard him well
From treason; but he was but seven years old,
And therefore ’twas but little he’d been told
Of any dream, so holy was his heart.
By God! I’d rather than retain my shirt
That you had read this legend, as have I.
Dame Pertelote, I tell you verily,
Macrobius, who wrote of Scipio Commentary on Cicero’s Dream of Scipio / The Saturnalia
The African a vision long ago,
He holds by dreams, saying that they have been Warnings of things that men have later seen.
“And furthermore, I pray you to look well
In the Old Testament at Daniel,
Whether he held dreams for mere vanity.
Read, too, of Joseph, and you there shall see
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Where dreams have sometimes been (I say not all) Warnings of things that, after did befall.
Consider Egypt’s king, Dan Pharaoh,
His baker and his butler, these also,
Whether they knew of no effect from dreams. Whoso will read of sundry realms the themes May learn of dreams full many a wondrous thing. Lo, Croesus, who was once of Lydia king, Dreamed he not that he sat upon a tree,
Which signified that hanged high he should be? Lo, how Andromache, great Hector’s wife,
On that same day when Hector lost his life,
She dreamed upon the very night before
That Hector’s life should be lost evermore,
If on that day he battled, without fail.
She warned him, but no warning could avail; He went to fight, despite all auspices,
And so was shortly slain by Achilles.
But that same tale is all too long to tell,
And, too, it’s nearly day, I must not dwell
Upon this; I but say, concluding here,
That from this vision I have cause to fear Adversity; and I say, furthermore,
That I do set by laxatives no store,
For they are poisonous, I know it well.
Them I defy and love not, truth to tell.
“But let us speak of mirth and stop all this;
My lady Pertelote, on hope of bliss,
In one respect God’s given me much grace;
For when I see the beauty of your face,
You are so rosy-red beneath each eye,
It makes my dreadful terror wholly die.
For there is truth in In principio
Mulier est hominis confusio
(Madam, the meaning of this latin is,
Woman is man’s delight and all his bliss).
For when I feel at night your tender side, Although I cannot then upon you ride,
Because our perch so narrow is, alas!
I am so full of joy and all solace
That I defy, then, vision, aye and dream.”
And with that word he flew down from the beam, For it was day, and down went his hens all;
And with a cluck he them began to call,
For he had found some corn within the yard. Regal he was, and fears he did discard.
He feathered Pertelote full many a time
And twenty times he trod her ere ’twas prime.
He looked as if he were a grim lion
As on his toes he strutted up and down;
He deigned not set his foot upon the ground.
He clucked when any grain of corn he found,
And all his wives came running at his call.
Thus regal, as a prince is in his hall,
I’ll now leave busy Chanticleer to feed,
And with events that followed I’ll proceed.
When that same month wherein the world began, Which is called March, wherein God first made man, Was ended, and were passed of days also,
Since March began, full thirty days and two,
It fell that Chanticleer, in all his pride,
His seven wives a-walking by his side,
Cast up his two eyes toward the great bright sun (Which through die sign of Taurus now had run Twenty degrees and one, and somewhat more),
And knew by instinct and no other lore
That it was prime, and joyfully he crew,
“The sun, my love,” he said, “has climbed anew
Forty degrees and one, and somewhat more.
My lady Pertelote, whom I adore,
Mark now these happy birds, hear how they sing,
And see all these fresh flowers, how they spring;
Full is my heart of revelry and grace.”
But suddenly he fell in grievous case;
For ever the latter end of joy is woe.
God knows that worldly joys do swiftly go;
And if a rhetorician could but write,
He in some chronicle might well indite
And mark it down as sovereign in degree.
Now every wise man, let him hark to me:
This tale is just as true, I undertake,
As is the book of Launcelot of the Lake,
Which women always hold in such esteem.
But now I must take up my proper theme.
A brant-fox, full of sly iniquity,
That in the grove had lived two years, or three,
Now by a fine premeditated plot
That same night, breaking through the hedge, had got Into the yard where Chanticleer the fair
Was wont, and all his wives too, to repair;
And in a bed of greenery still he lay
Till it was past the quarter of the day,
Waiting his chance on Chanticleer to fall,
As gladly do these killers one and all
Who lie in ambush for to murder men.
O murderer false, there lurking in your den!
O new Iscariot, O new Ganelon! one who betrayed Charlemagne to the Saracens
O false dissimulator, Greek Sinon the pretended Greek deserter
That brought down Troy all utterly to sorrow!
O Chanticleer, accursed be that morrow
When you into that yard flew from the beams!
You were well warned, and fully, by your dreams
That this day should hold peril damnably.
But that which God foreknows, it needs must be,
So says the best opinion of the clerks.
Witness some cleric perfect for his works,
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That in the schools there’s a great altercation In this regard, and much high disputation That has involved a hundred thousand men. But I can’t sift it to the bran with pen,
As can the holy Doctor Augustine,
Or Boethius, or Bishop Bradwardine, free will and determinism
Whether the fact of God’s great foreknowing
Makes it right needful that I do a thing
(By needful, I mean, of necessity);
Or else, if a free choice he granted me,
To do that same thing, or to do it not,
Though God foreknew before the thing was wrought; Or if His knowing constrains never at all,
Save by necessity conditional.
I have no part in matters so austere;
My tale is of a cock, as you shall hear,
That took the counsel of his wife, with sorrow,
To walk within the yard upon that morrow
After he’d had the dream whereof I told.
Now women’s counsels oft are ill to hold;
A woman’s counsel brought us first to woe, medieval view of Eve
And Adam caused from Paradise to go,
Wherein he was right merry and at ease.
But since I know not whom it may displease
If woman’s counsel I hold up to blame,
Pass over, I but said it in my game.
Read authors where such matters do appear,
And what they say of women, you may hear.
These are the cock’s words, they are none of mine; No harm in women can I e’er divine.
All in the sand, a-bathing merrily,
Lay Pertelote, with all her sisters by,
There in the sun; and Chanticleer so free
Sang merrier than a mermaid in the sea
(For Physiologus says certainly
That they do sing, both well and merrily).
And so befell that, as he cast his eye
Among the herbs and on a butterfly,
He saw this fox that lay there, crouching low. Nothing of urge was in him, then, to crow;
But he cried “Cock-cock-cock” and did so start
As man who has a sudden fear at heart.
For naturally a beast desires to flee
From any enemy that he may see,
Though never yet he’s clapped on such his eye. When Chanticleer the fox did then espy,
He would have fled but that the fox anon
Said: “Gentle sir, alas! Why be thus gone?
Are you afraid of me, who am your friend?
Now, surely, I were worse than any fiend
If I should do you harm or villainy.
I came not here upon your deeds to spy;
But, certainly, the cause of my coming
Was only just to listen to you sing.
For truly, you have quite as fine a voice
As angels have that Heaven’s choirs rejoice; Boethius to music could not bring The Consolations of Philosophy/De Musica
Such feeling, nor do others who can sing.
My lord your father (God his soul pray bless!)
And too your mother, of her gentleness,
Have been in my abode, to my great ease;
And truly, sir, right fain am I to please.
But since men speak of singing, I will say
(As I still have my eyesight day by day),
Save you, I never heard a man so sing
As did your father in the grey dawning;
Truly ’twas from the heart, his every song.
And that his voice might ever be more strong,
He took such pains that, with his either eye,
He had to blink, so loudly would he cry,
A-standing on his tiptoes therewithal,
Stretching his neck till it grew long and small.
And such discretion, too, by him was shown,
There was no man in any region known
That him in song or wisdom could surpass.
I have well read, in Dan Burnell the Ass, wanted a longer tail / a monk dissatisfied with his lot
Among his verses, how there was a cock,
Because a priest’s son gave to him a knock
Upon the leg, while young and not yet wise,
He caused the boy to lose his benefice.
But, truly, there is no comparison
With the great wisdom and the discretion
Your father had, or with his subtlety.
Now sing, dear sir, for holy charity,
See if you can your father counterfeit.”
This Chanticleer his wings began to beat,
As one that could no treason there espy,
So was he ravished by this flattery
Alas, you lords! Full many a flatterer
Is in your courts, and many a cozener,
That please your honours much more, by my fay, Than he that truth and justice dares to say.
Go read the Ecclesiast on flattery;
Beware, my lords, of all their treachery!
This Chanticleer stood high upon his toes, Stretching his neck, and both his eyes did close, And so did crow right loudly, for the nonce;
And Russel Fox, he started up at once,
And by the gorget grabbed our Chanticleer,
Flung him on back, and toward the wood did steer, For there was no man who as yet pursued.
O destiny, you cannot be eschewed!
Alas, that Chanticleer flew from the beams!
Alas, his wife recked nothing of his dreams!
And on a Friday fell all this mischance.
O Venus, who art goddess of pleasance,
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Since he did serve thee well, this Chanticleer, Alerting lovers to sunrise And to the utmost of his power here,
More for delight than cocks to multiply,
Why would’st thou suffer him that day to die? O Gaufred, my dear master sovereign, ? Could be the Northampton poet
Who, when King Richard Lionheart was slain By arrow, sang his death with sorrow sore, Richard I Why have I not your faculty and lore
To chide Friday, as you did worthily?
(For truly, on a Friday slain was he).
Then would I prove how well I could complain
For Chanticleer’s great fear and all his pain.
Certainly no such cry and lamentation
Were made by ladies at Troy’s debolation,
When Pyrrhus with his terrible bared sword
Had taken old King Priam by the beard
And slain him (as the Aeneid tells to us),
As made then all those hens in one chorus
When they had caught a sight of Chanticleer.
But fair Dame Pertelote assailed the ear aka Dame Partlet
Far louder than did Hasdrubal’s good wife brother of Hannibal
When that her husband bold had lost his life,
And Roman legionaries burned Carthage;
For she so full of torment was, and rage,
She voluntarily to the fire did start
And burned herself there with a steadfast heart.
And you, O woeful hens, just so you cried
As when base Nero burned the city wide
Of Rome, and wept the senators’ stern wives Because their husbands all had lost their lives,
For though not guilty, Nero had them slain.
Now will I turn back to my tale again.
This simple widow and her daughters two
Heard these hens cry and make so great ado,
And out of doors they started on the run
And saw the fox into the grove just gone,
Bearing upon his back the cock away.
And then they cried, “Alas, and weladay!
Oh, oh, the fox!” and after him they ran,
And after them, with staves, went many a man;
Ran Coll, our dog, ran Talbot and Garland,
And Malkin with a distaff in her hand;
Ran cow and calf and even the very hogs,
So were they scared by barking of the dogs
And shouting men and women all did make,
They all ran so they thought their hearts would break. They yelled as very fiends do down in Hell;
The ducks they cried as at the butcher fell;
The frightened geese flew up above the trees;
Out of the hive there came the swarm of bees;
So terrible was the noise, ah ben’cite! Benedicite-bless you
Certainly old Jack Straw and his army leader of the Peasant’s Revolt 1381
Never raised shouting half so loud and shrill
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When they were chasing Flemings for to kill,
As on that day was raised upon the fox.
They brought forth trumpets made of brass, of box, Of horn, of bone, wherein they blew and pooped, And therewithal they screamed and shrieked and
It seemed as if the heaven itself should fall!
And now, good men, I pray you hearken all.
Behold how Fortune turns all suddenly Wheel of Fortune
The hope and pride of even her enemy!
This cock, which lay across the fox’s back,
In all his fear unto the fox did clack
And say: “Sir, were I you, as I should be,
Then would I say (as God may now help me!), ‘Turn back again, presumptuous peasants all!
A very pestilence upon you fall!
Now that I’ve gained here to this dark wood’s side, In spite of you this cock shall here abide.
I’ll eat him, by my faith, and that anon!’”
The fox replied: “In faith, it shall be done!”
And as he spoke that word, all suddenly
This cock broke from his mouth, full cleverly,
And high upon a tree he flew anon.
And when the fox saw well that he was gone, “Alas,” quoth he, “O Chanticleer, alas!
I have against you done a base trespass
In that I frightened you, my dear old pard,
When you I seized and brought from out that yard; But, sir, I did it with no foul intent;
Come down, and I will tell you what I meant.
I’ll tell the truth to you, God help me so!”
“Nay then,” said he, “beshrew us both, you know, But first, beshrew myself, both blood and bones,
If you beguile me, having done so once,
You shall no more, with any flattery,
Cause me to sing and close up either eye.
For he who shuts his eyes when he should see, And wilfully, God let him ne’er be free!”
“Nay,” said the fox, “but, God give him mischance Who is so indiscreet in governance
He chatters when he ought to hold his peace.”
Lo, such it is when watch and ward do cease,
And one grows negligent with flattery.
But you that hold this tale a foolery,
As but about a fox, a cock, a hen,
Yet do not miss the moral, my good men.
For Saint Paul says that all that’s written well
Is written down some useful truth to tell.
Then take the wheat and let the chaff lie still.
And now, good God, and if it be Thy will,
As says Lord Christ, so make us all good men
And bring us into His high bliss. Amen.
The Canterbury Tales

dcPizan, Christine (c 1363-1431)
trans Richards E J) 1982
The Book of the City of Ladies,
Persea Press, New York. ISBN 0-89255-061-9

NOTE: This extract is included as an essential reading for transfijnning the worid.
You are requested to purchase the book yourself as it is pertimnt reading material.


I n. 30. 1 “My lady, I see the aidless benefits vMch have accmed to the vvorld through
women and neverfiieless these mei^ claim diat there is no evil wiiich has not come into
the world because of them.” “Fair friend,” she answaed, “you can see from what I have
already said to you that the contrary of what they say is true. For there is rw man who

I could sum xp t t e enormous benefite whkh have c a n e about tiirou^ wcanen and which
come about every day, and I proved this for you with the examples of the noble ladies who gave die sciaices atxi arts
to the worid. But, if whid: I have sal’d abcart the earthly benefits accruing thaiiks to w ^ r a
tell you about the spiritual ones. Oh, how could any man be so heartless to foiget that the door of Paradise was opened
to him by a woman? As I told you before, it was opened by the Virgin Mary, and is there anyttiing greater one could
ask for than that God was made man? And who can forget the great benefits which mothers bring to their sons and
vtttdi wives bring to their husbands? I implore diem at the very least rvot to fbiget the advantages which touch upon
spirittal good. Let us consider the Law of the Jews. If you recall the story of Moses, to whom God gave the written
Law of the Jews, you will find that this holy {ffophet, tiirough whom so much good has come about, was saved from
death by a woman, just as I will tdl you.

2.30,2 “In the time when the Jews were in servitude to the kings of Egypt, it was foretold that a man would be bom
amoi^ the Hebrews who would lead the people of Israel out of servitude to these kings. When Moses, that noble
leadCT, was bom, his mother, not daring to nurse him, was forced to place him in a small basket and send him
downstream. So it happened-according to the will of God who saves whatsoever pleases Him- that Theraiutis, the
daughter of Pharaoh, was playing on t ^ riverbank at the very moment when the litde basket floated by on the water,
and die immediately had the basket brought to hw in order to find out what was inside. When she saw that it was such
a lovely child that a more beautifii child could not be imagined, she was terribly glad. She had him nursed and claimed
him as her own, and, because through a on^le he would not take the breast of a woman Of a foreign religion, she had
him nursed by a Hebrew vvomaa When Moses, elected by God, was grown, it was he to whom our Lord ^ v e the
Law and who delivered the Jews from the hands of the Egyptians, and he passed through the Red Sea and was the
leader and guide of die children of Israel. And this great baiefit came to ti№ Jews thanks to die woman who saved him.”


2.36.1 Following these remarks, 1, Christiiw, spoke, “My lady, I realize diat women have accomplished many good
things and tiiat even if evil women have done evil, it seems to me, i^erthelesSj diat the benefits accrued and still accruing
because of good women-particulariy tiie wise and literary ones and tiiose educated in tiie nattiral sciences whom I
mentioned above-outwei^ the evil. Therefore, I am amazed by the opinion of some men who claim that tiiey do not
want tiieir daughters, wives, or kinswomen to be educated because tiieir mores would be mined as a result.” She
responded, Here you can clearly see that not all opinions of men are based on reason and tiiat these men are wrong.
For it must not be presumed that mores necessarily grow worse from knowing tiie moral sciences, which teach tiie
virtues, indeed, tiiere is not tiie sli^test doubt tiiat moral education amends and ennobles them. How could anyone tiiink
or believe that whoever follows good teaching or doctrine is the worse for it? Such an opinion cannot be expressed or
maintained. I do not mean that it would be good for a man or a woman to stucfy the art of divination or tiiose fields of
learning which are forbidden-for tiie holy Church did not remove tiiem from coQimon use witiiout good reason-but it
should not be believed that women are tiie worse for knowing what is good.



L 10.3 “My lady, men have burdened me witii a heavy charge taken from a Latin proverb, which runs, ‘God made
women to speak, weq), and sew, which tiiey use to attack womea “Indeed, sweet friend, repUed, “this proverb is
so true that it cannot Ы held against whoever believes or s£ys it. Early on, God placed these qualities in Йюзе womra
who have saved themselves by speaking, weeping, and sewing. And in answer to those -who attack womai fc«r dieir
habit of weeping, I tell you fliat if our Lord Jesus Christ-firan vjbcm vo t h o t ^ is hidden and v^o sees aixi knows
eveiy heart-had believed that women’s tears come oniy from weakness and simple-mindednes, die dignity of His most
great H i ^ e s s would never have been so inclined t h r o i ^ compassion to shed tears Himself &om tiie eyes of His wortlty
and glorious body when He saw Mary Magdalene and her sister Martha weep for tlreir dead brother Lazarus die 1ерет
and then to resurrect him. What special fevors has God bestowed on women because of their tears! He did not demise
the tears of Mary Magdalene, but accepted them ard forgave hsr sins, and throu^ the merits of those tears ̂ is in
glory in Heavm Similmiy, He did not reject the teats of the widow who wept as she followed the corpse of her ceily
son as it was being carried a w ^ far burial. And our Lcffd, the fountain of all pity, moved to compassion by her tears as
He saw her weep, asked her, “Woman, why do you weep? and thai brought her child back to life. God has pafemied
other miracles, v^ich are found in tine Holy Scriptures and would take too long to relate, on bdialf of mar^ w a n e n
because of tiieir tears, and continues to do so, for I believe that many womai, as well as otters fiff whom they pray, are
saved by tiie tears of their devoti№. Was not Saint Augustine, the glorious Doctcff of the Church, ccmvated to tiie Faith
by his mother’s tears? For the good wœnan wqjt continuously, playing to God that it would please Him to illuminate the
iréart of Ьет pagan, uibelieving son witfi flie l i ^ of feith Saint AintHX)se, to wham the ЬЫу lady oftai went to ask tiiat
hs pray to God on behalf of her son, told her for this reascm, WcHnan, I believe it is impossible that so т а г у tears could
be died in vain.’ О blessed Ambrose who did not thiiik that wonaen’s tears wrae frivolous! And this m i ^ answer those
men who attack women so much, because thanks to a woman’s tears does this holy liminary. Saint Ai^ustine, stand ei
tiie fore of the НЫу Qiurdi which he ctanpletely Im^itiais and illuminates. Therefore, let men stop talking about tiiis

1. 10.5 Similarly, God endowed women witii the feculty of speech-may He be praised for it-for had He not done so,
fliey would be speechless. But in reflitation of what this proverb S Ï Ç ^ , (which someone, I don’t know whom, invented’
deliberately to attadc them), if women’s language hàl beoi so blameworthy and of sudi anaU authcMity, as some men
argue, our Lord JesiB Christ would neva- have deigned to wish that so worfl^ a mystery as IBs most gracioie
resurrection be first announced by a woman, just as He commanded the blessed Magdalene, to whran He first
appeared on Easter, to report and announce it to His aposties and to Peter. Blessed God, may you be praised, who,
among the odier iiifijoite boons агк1 fevOTS which You have bestowed хфоп t ^
such lofly and worthy news.” “All tiiose -who are jealous of me would do best to be silent if they had any real my lady,” I
said, “but I anile at tiie folly which sœne т ш have expressed and I even remember that I heard some fooUdi preachers
teach that God first qjpeared to a woman because He knew weU tiiat she did not know how to keep quiet so that fliis
•щу flie iKws of His resunecticHi would be spread more rapidly. ” She answered, “My daii^ta-, you irâve spcrfcen well
when you caU thmi fools who said this. It is not enough for them to attack wranea They impute even to Jesus Christ
such blasphemy, as if to say tiiat He wished to reveal this great perfecticei and dignity tiroi^ a vice. I do not know
how a man could dare to say tiiis, evrai in jest, as God should not be b r o u ^ t in cei sudi joking mattas. But as йм- tiie
first questiori, regarding taDong-in feet it was fifftunate for the wrarnan fix>m Caiiaan wto
would not stop yelling and howling after Jesus Christ as she followed Him tiirough the streets of Jerusalem, aying, ‘Have
mercy on me. Lord, fcff my daughter is sick’ And what did the good Lord do? He in vhora all mercy abounded and
abounds and firan whom a single wrad from tiie heart sufficed for Him to show mercy! He seemed to take pleasure in
the many words pcwring fiom tiie moufli of tiiis woman ever persévérant in her prayer. But wty did He act like this? In
order to test her constancy, for when He compared her to the dogs-which seemed a little harsh because she foUowed a
foreign cult and m t tiiat of God-she was not ashamed to speak botii well and wisely whai she replied, ‘Sire, tiiat is
most triK!, but the littie dogs live fixmi the crumbs fiwn tiieir master’s table,’ ‘O most wise woman, who taught you to
speak tiiis way? You have won your cause through your prudent language which stems from your good wiU.’ And one
could clearly see tiiis, for our Lord, tuming to His Aposties, testified fiom His moutii tiiat He had never found such feitii
in all of Israel and granted her request. Who could sufficientiy sum up this honor paid to ti» feminine sex which tiie
jealous despise, considering that in the heart of tiiis littie bit of a pagan woman God found more feitii tiian in all flie
bishops, princes, priests, and all tiie people of die Jews, who called tiiemselves the worthy people of God? hi tiiis
manner, at equal lengtii and with great eloquence, tiie Samaritan woman spoke well on her own behalf when she went
to the well to draw water and met Jesus Christ sitting there completely exhausted. 0 blessed Godhead conjoined to this
worthy body! How could You allow Your holy moutii to speak at such lengtii for tiie sake of tiiis littie bit of a woman
and a sinner who did not even live under Your Law? You truly demonstrated that You did not in the least disdain flie
pious sex of women. God, how often would our con- temporary pontiffs deign to discuss anytiiing witii some simple littie
•wnman let ainné ber nvm salvatinn?”

Avision-Christine (1405)

[Ayisioii-Christine ism allegorical dream vision in which Christine learns about the history of France, its
present problems, and the meaning of her own life. Glenda K. Mcleod’s translation is accompanied by a
thorough introduction and useful notes and bibliography:]

“An amazing vision overcame me as a strange, prophetic sign.”

[The opening:]

I was akeady midway tiirough the journey of my pilgrimage when one day at eventide, I found myself Mgued
the long road and desirous of shelter. Since I had arrived here t h r o u ^ a desire for sleep, after I said grace and
taken and received the nourishment necessary for human Ufe, I recommended myself to tiie autiior of aU things
and betook myself to a bed of troubled rest

Soon thereafter, my senses bound by the weight of sleep, an amazing visim overcame me as a strange, prophetic
sign- Even though I am hardly Nebuchadnezzar, Scipio, or Joseph the secrets of flie Ahni^ity are not denied to
the more unsophisticated. [ B k l , p . l l ]

“I wish to reveal everything to you. ”

[A crowned lady, whom Christine’s preface has identified as at once the earth, the human soul and
France, appeared and gave Christine a task:]

“Friend, to whran God and Nature have conceded the gift of a love of study far beyond the common lot of
women, prepare parchment, quiU, and ink, and write the words issuing fi-om my breast; for I wish to reveal
eveiytiiingtoyou.” [Bk.l,p.l5]

“No woman bom for a long time would surpass me.”

/Christine mourned the fact that she had neglected to learn enough from her father and her husband
while they were alive:]

…[W]hen I was at tte two fonts of Philosophy tiiemselves—those noble fountains so bright and wholesome—I,
Uke a young and pampered fool, took not my fiU of fliem, even though the beautifiil water pleased me; rather, just
like tiie simplebm who sees the W ^ t sun shining and considers not tiie rain but thinks it win last forever, I
neglected ftose tilings and thought to recover my loss in time….

For with my present desues, if I had such clarity at my side now, being completely devoted to study and wearied
of all other useless occupations and pastimes, I would replenish myself fix)m tiiose foimtains so exceedingly and
thoroughly that no woman bom for a long time would surpass me. [Bk3, p. 118]

“I delighted in their clever ruses.”

[Nature had given Christine the desire to study, first the works of historians and then ofpoets:]

…1 deUghted in their clever ruses, the noble subject hidden beneath moral and pleasing tales, and the beautifiil
style of their meter and p-ose, pleasurable for the lovely and polished rhetoric adorned by clever language and
unusual proverbs.

“…those disloyal men who blame and shame, defame and deceive diem”

[From Epistie au dieu damouis; Cupid addresses his “true and loyal servitors”:]

To one and all about we make it known
That here, before our court, complaints have come
To us, and idaints so vary piteous.
From women, both tiie old and younger ones.
From noble ladies, maidens, m^chants’wives.
From all of womankind, wiKTCver found.
Most humbly asking us to intervene.

Failing our help, they’ll be completely shwn
Of evray dired of dignity, and shamed.
The laiies raec&xoaed here above complain
Of damage done, of blame and blemished name.
And of betr^als, v a y grievous wrongs.
Of felsdioods uttered, many other griefe,
Eiiduied each day fix)m those disloj^ men
Who blame and shame, defeme and deceive them. [11.8-22]

‘T say she never did play Adam Mse.”

[After condemning those who betray women, Cupid defends women against those who defame them; he
eventually arrives at the subject of Eve’s part in the Fall:]

Now as to the deceitful act
For which our mother Eve is brought to blame.
Upon which followed Gods harsh punishment,
I say she never did pJey Adam felse.
In innocence she took the enemy’s
Assertion, which he gave her to believe.
Accepting it as trae, sincerely said.
She wait to tell her mate what she had heard
No fiaudulence was there, no planned deceit.
For gmlelessn^, which has no hicklen ̂ ite.
Must not be labeled as deceptiveness. [11. 591-599, 604-616]

To princes all inclined to love.
To an the gallant rKiblemen
Inspired to arms by bravery;
To those whose custom is to love
All goodness, thus to earn esteem;
To lovers bred in gentie ways.
Hare in our realm, in other states.
Wherever valor radiates;
To ladi^ aU of good renown.
To all tiie maidais who are loved.
To women who are honorable.
Gracious, well-bred, and courteous:
A modest counsel offered here.
Given in true sincerity.
I bring to aU tiie valorous.
Who persevere for honor’s sake.
These wondrous tidings, pleasing news.
No harmful, frightening report [11.1-18]

[Two years later, in Dit de la rose, Christine and Cupid change tactics: instead of complaining and
condemning, the god of love sends a goddess to earth to establish for honest lovers a new chivalric order,
the Order of the Rose; each member of the order must take a vow of loyalty to his/her lover; Christine
sets the cheerful tone as she begins her announcement:]

“So forge pleasing things.”

[Then Nature ordered Christine to write:]

She told me, “Take the tools and strike the anvil. The material I will give you is so durable that neither iron or fire
nor anything else will be able to destroy it. So forge pleasing things.

When you carried children in your womb, you experienced great pain in order to give birth Now I want books
brought forth fijom you which will presort your memory before the woridly princes in tiie fiiture and keep it
always and everywhere bright; these you wiU deliver fiom your memory in joy arxl pleasure notwitiistanding the
pain and labor. [Bk.3, p. 119]

Christine de Pizan presenting her book to
Isabelle of Bavaria, surrounded by the ladies of

the court, from thè British Library’s Harley 443J
manuscript, f3.

Christine de Pizan Writing, from the French 15th
Centur}’Harley Manuscript

L a d i e s R e a s o n , Rectitude and J u s t i c e : ” W e h a v e c o m e t o v a n q u i s h from t h e world the s a m e p r o b l e m
u p o n which y o u had fallen, so that from n o w on, l a d i e s a n d all valiant w o m e n m a y h a v e a r e f u s e and

d e f e n s e a c a i n s t t h e v a r i o u s a s s a i l a n t s ” ClOl

Christine standing within her study, with her book open on table, meets Reason, Rectitude,
and Justice all crowned; in the accompanying frame, she helps lay ihe foundations for the

City of Ladies. MS Harley 443 /. folJ90r.

f i № » t « » t r orili (*AtfcV»,l>ÌTOftrtsw.tVrt«^ Christine^ (-“impleted City’, German Manuscript

C l e a r i n g t h e Field of Letters:
“•I could not see o r realize h o w their c l a i m s could b e t r u e when c o m p a r e d to the n a t u r a l b e h a v i o r and

c h a r a c t e r of w o m e n ” (4)

(Christine and Lady Virtue in the Field of Letters: London, British Library, MS Add. 20698. fol 17.)

Sunshine for Women at http://www.pinn-netZ-sunshine/marchpg/pizanS.html

Chiistine de Pizan 1365 – c. 1430
Most modem feminist scholars date the begiiming of the modem feminist movement to the

works of Christine de Pizan although they dispute whedier her L’Epistre au Dieu d’amours
[Letter to the God of Love, 1399], Le dit de la Rose [The Taie of the Rose, 1402], Epistres du
débat sur le Roman de la Rose {Letters on the Debate of The Romance of the Rose, 1401-1403),
or Le Livre de la Cite des Dames [The Book of the City of the Ladies, 1405] sparked the
discussion of the querelle des femmes, the woman question. Letters to the God of Love sparked
the debate about the misogynistic The Romance of the Rose which lead directly to Pizan’s 2
entries in the debate, the poetical. The Tale of the Rose, and the verse. Letters on the Debat of the
Rose wherein de Pizan attacked Jean de Meung’s popular The Romance of the Rose as immoral
and misogynistic. Continuing the themes developed in her Debate on the Romance of the Rose, a
few years later in City of Ladies, de Pizan presents a dream-vision of a Utopian city for women
inhabited by powerful, educated, and influential women both of antiquity and of her own time.
She wrote 2 other overtly feminist works in her lifetime: Livre de Trois Vertus or Le Trésor de la
Cite des Dames [The Book of Three Virtues or The Book of the Treasury of Ladies, 1405] sequel
to The Book of the City of Ladies, a “detailed classification of women’s roles in contemporary
society” and Le Ditie de Jehanne d’Arc [Song in Honor of Joan of Arc, 1429], a celebration of
Joan of Arc’s victory at Orlean and the coronation of Charles Vn at Reims. Her father was
Tommaso di Benvenuto da Pizzano (Pizzano was a small village in the foothills to the southeast
of the Emihan capital), a lecturer in astrology at the University of Bologna (1348) and later
physician. Bologna and Paris were leading education centers of the time. Tomasso left Bologna
for Venice in 1357 where Christine was bom in 1365. Shortly after Christine’s birth, he became
court astrologer to Charles V, moving his family to Paris to be with him m 1368 . Exactly how
Christine was educated and managed to become a professional writer is unclear. We know that
her husband was a royal secretary, a position occupied by the intellectual elite of the time and
often the first step in an illustrious political career. Christine remarked that her father had been
well regarded at court and some historians speculate that he was an adviser to the court librarian
on scientific books. Charles V’s library was if not the best, then one of the best, in Europe. Such
a position would explain her father’s reputation, Christine’s access to books, Christine’s
knowledge of both tiie printing trade and the best craftsmen in the trade, and Christine’s entree
into the chcles of the rich and powerful. Unfortunately Charles V died in 1380 when his son and
successor, the future Charles VI, was ortiy 12 years o f age. Although Charles V had created a
regency staffed by his best servants, his powerful brothers did not honor his wishes and many of
his servants, including Christine’s father, fell on hard times.

We do know these facts about Christine de Pizan. Educated by her father in spite of her
mother’s objections, Christine was happily married at age 15 to Etienne du Castel, royal
secretary, who encouraged her to continue her studies. Widowed at age 25 and left with three
children, a niece, and her own widowed mother to support, only now did de Pizan seriously
embark on a program of self education. Her father had died impoverished and her husband’s
estate took 14 years and numerous lawsuits to close.

De Pizan was France’s, and possibly Europe’s, first woman known to have earned her living
by the pen. Since she was commissioned to writes some of her works, some scholars consider
her Europe’s first professional writer. While establishing her reputation as a writer, she earned
her living by copying and illustrating other people’s works. Her works included all gemes:


biography, autobiography, poetry, history, novels, short stories, feminist polemics, books on
advice and morality, miUtary techniques, reUgion, politics, and Uterary commentary. A Ust of
only her major pubUcations show ŝ how proUfic she was as a vrater, the range of subjects
fathers, brotiiers and other kin at the Battle of Agincourt. Many influential women of the next
generation owned and read copies of de Pizan’s work including Marguerite of Austria and
Mary of Hungary, two fixture govemors of the Netherlands of the Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V; Louise of Savoy, regent of France during the minority of Francis I; Anne of
Brittany, twice queen of France, and Queen Leorna of Portugal

The Book of the City of Ladies is an allegorical tale that was intended to address points
raised in Boccaccio’s De mulieribus clans [On Famous Women], the first book in westem
Uterature to talk about virtuous women. Unfortunately, Boccaccio only Usts famous virtuous
women of antiquity so that he can hold them up as abnormal specimens of womanhood.
According to him, by following their religious principles, women of the Christian era act in
ways contrary to nature and therefore disqualify themselves as trae exemplars of womanhood.

For the first time, womankind had a strong defender. Never again would all voices in
defense of womankind be silent. Sometimes only a few voices would be heard but, even in the
depths of the witch craze, womankind would have her defenders. De Pizan spoke about issues
that resonate even today: lack of access to education for women, the disappointment women
sometimes feel at the birth of a daughter, the accusation that women mvite rape, the idea that
women can be pretty and enjoy fine clothes without forfeiting their title to chastity, violence in
marriage, drunken beatmgs, and spendthrift hirsbands. She explores the sources of women’s
oppression by discussing the reasons for men’s misogyny with Lady Reason. She responds with
reason and logic, using her devotion to Christianity as the basis of her femiiusm.

Writing in the vernacular (a revolutionary act in itself), in Part 1, Christine and Lady
Reason begin by discussing motives behind men’s misogyny. Reason sets out to prove that
many women have made important contributions to civilization by listing many famous
women, mythological women, women of antiqmty, and contemporary women, in the domains
of law and governance, science, and philosophy. “A partem is established here that will be
repeated in following chapters where parallels are drawn between classical models and more
recent examples of comparable virtues, for Christine is clearly unwilUng to have feminine
virtue relegated to a mythological past.”

The foundation having been laid, in Part 2, Lady Rectitude takes over and cites many
instances of women who had high morals such as fihal piety, wifely devotion, integrity, and
generosity. Using ortiy the best building materials, Rectitude constmcts the city, streets, shops,
and other pubUc and private spaces. The city now completed. Lady Justice now steps in to
populate the city with the best of women, beginning with the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalean,
and a long Ust of female saints and martyrs. After wearying of such a long list of deserving
women. Justice breaks off and Christine finishes, rejoicing in the many fine women of history
and wanting women of men’s snares. Male commentators on de Pizan claim that she merely
rearranged what Boccaccio wrote. Read the opening section below to judge for yourself if her
work was truly femiiust and revolutionary in content.

Here is an excerpt of her work, the Opeiting Sections 1.1.1 -1.1.2
“One day as I was sitting alone in my study surrounded by books on all kinds of subjects,

devoting myself to literary studies, my usual habit, my mind dwelt at length on the weighty
opinions of various authors whom I had studied for a long time. I looked up from my book,
having decided to leave such subtle questions in peace and to relax by reading some small

book. By chance a strange volume came into my hands, not one of my own, but one which had
been given to me along with some others. When I held it open and saw its title page that it was
by Matheolus, I smiled, for Üiough I had never seen it before, I had often heard that like books
it discussed respect for women. I thought I would browse through it to amuse myself I had not
been reading for very long when my good mother called me to refresh myself with some
supper, for it was evening. Intending to look at it the next day, I put it down. The next morning,
again seated in my study as was my habit, I remembered wanting to examine this book by
Matheolus. I started to read it and went on for a Uttle while. Because the subject seemed to me
not very pleasant for people who do not enjoy lies, and of no use in developing virtue or
manners, given its lack of integrity in diction and theme, and after browsing here and there and
reading the end, 1 put it down in order to turn my attention to more elevated and useful study.
But just the sight of this book, even though it was of no authority, made me wonder how it
happened that so many different men – and leamed men among them – have been and are so
inclined to express both in speaking and in their treatises and writings so many wicked insults
about women and their behavior. Not only one or two and not even just this Matheolus (for this
book had a bad name anyways and was intended as a satire) but, more generally, from the
freatises of all philosophers and poets and from all the orators – it would take too long to
mention their names – it seems that they all speak from one and the same mouth. Thinking
deeply about these matters, I began to examine my character and conduct as a natural woman
and, similarly, I considered other women whose company 1 frequently kept, princesses, great
ladies, women of the middle and lower classes, who had graciously told me of their most
private and intimate thoughts, hoping that I could judge impartially and in good conscience
whether the testimony of so many notable men could be tme. To the best of my knowledge, no
matter how long I confronted or dissected the problem, I could not see or reahze how thefr
claims could be tme when compared to the natural behavior and character of women. Yet I still
argued vehemently against women, sayhig that it would be impossible that so many famous
men – such solemn scholars, possessed of such deep and great imderstanding, so clear-sighted
in all things, as it seemed – could have spoken falsely on so many occasions that I could hardly
find a book on morals where, even before I had read it in its entirety, I did not find several
chapters or certain sections attacking women, no …

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