Clerk's Tale and Sita's Ramayana

View a video and resources for comparing Chaucer's Clerk's Tale and Sita's Ramayana, written Samhita Arni and illustrated by Moyna Chitrakar. The video and resources are presented by Moira Fitzgibbons. A video transcript is available here.



The following resources provide links to the texts under discussion, literature analyzing text and context, and helpful assignments and prompts for using the video in a teaching setting.


Arni, Samhita, and Moyna Chitrakar. Sita’s Ramayana. Groundwood Books, 2011.

Benson, Larry, ed. and trans. “The Clerk’s Prologue, Tale, and Envoy.” Harvard’s Geoffrey Chaucer Website. (Provides an interlinear translation of the tale from Middle to modern English.)

Boenig, Robert, and Andrew Taylor. The “Canterbury Tales”: A Selection. 2nd edition. Broadview Press, 2013.

Woodward, Daniel, and Martin Stevens, eds. The Canterbury Tales: The New Ellesmere Chaucer Monochromatic Facsimile, Yushodo Co., Ltd., 1997.

Context and Analysis

Arni, Samhita. Official Website. (Scroll down to the bottom for an interview in which Arni articulates how and why she gives women’s voices a central role in her work.)

Barrington, Candace, and Jonathan Hsy, eds. “Translations and Adaptations, Listed by Country.” Global Chaucers: Online Archive and Community for Post-1945, Non-Anglophone Chaucerians, 2012-present.

“Bengal Pattachitra and the Art of Painting with Song.” Sarmaya, 2019.

Chitrakar, Moyna. “Moyna Sings Her Ramayana Scroll.” Tara Books. (Short video of Chitrakar singing a narration to a Patua scroll.)

Dinshaw, Carolyn, How Soon Is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time. Duke UP, 2012.

Ferrao-Walker, Gretchen. “Make in India: Meet Patua Artists Moyna and Joydeb Chitrakar.” Yahoo!Lifestyle, 2020.

McShane, Kara. Visualizing Chaucer. (Digital compendium providing images of Griselda and other Chaucerian characters in editions/renditions of the Tales.)

Nakley, Susan. “Authority (Familial, Political, Written) in the Clerk’s Tale.” The Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales, Eds. OACCT Editorial Collective, 2017.

The Times of India. “Sixth Century Manuscript of Ramayana Found in Kolkata, Stuns Scholars,” YouTube, 2015.

Valmiki Ramayana. Developed and maintained by IIT Kanpur. (Collaborative digital project provides texts, translations, and commentaries on the original epic.)

Assignments and Prompts

  1. What kinds of authority and agency do you see Sita and Griselda wielding in their respective marriages? Do you think each character has room to grow over the course of the narrative, or not really? How might the Clerk’s Tale change if it were written in the first person, as Sita’s Ramayana is?
  2. Choose your favorite page in Sita’s Ramayana, and describe the interplay between Arni’s words and Chitrakar’s painting. How do the words influence the way you read the text, and vice versa? Next, select an illustration featured in the Visualizing Chaucer website and describe how the artist seems to be interpreting Griselda and the Clerk’s Tale in general. How would you draw Sita or Griselda?
  3. Would it be accurate to say that both the Clerk’s Tale and Sita’s Ramayana are works of social commentary and/or critique? What does each work say about good or bad governance?
  4. Watch the video of Moyna Chitrakar’s performance and that of another Patua artist, Monimala Chitrakar, on the Sarmaya website. How might we understand Sita’s Ramayana differently if we were able to see and hear it performed? How does the meaning of the Clerk’s Tale change if we think about it as part of the pilgrims’ tale-telling contest, or as something that Chaucer or others may have read out loud at court?