Original Text

Modern Text

‘Now,’ quod the firste, ‘thou woost wel we be tweye,
And two of us shul strenger be than oon.
Look whan that he is set, and right anoon
Arys, as though thou woldest with him pleye;
And I shal ryve him thurgh the sydes tweye
Whyl that thou strogelest with him as in game,
And with thy dagger look thou do the same;
And than shal al this gold departed be,
370My dere freend, bitwixen me and thee;
Than may we bothe our lustes al fulfille,
And pleye at dees right at our owene wille.’
And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye
To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye.
“Well,” the first one began, “there are two of us and only one of him, which means that we can take him. When he comes back, wait for him to sit down, and then jump up and grab him as if you wanted to horse around. Then, while the two of you are wrestling, I’ll sneak up behind him and stab him with my dagger. Then you can pull out your dagger and do the same. Then we’ll have all this money to ourselves and will only have to divide it two ways instead of three. That’ll give each of us more money to play around and gamble with and do whatever we want.” The other ruffian liked this idea, so the two of them agreed to this plan to kill their friend.
This yongest, which that wente unto the toun,
Ful ofte in herte he rolleth up and doun
The beautee of thise florins newe and brighte.
‘O lord!’ quod he, ‘if so were that I mighte
Have al this tresor to my-self allone,
380Ther is no man that liveth under the trone
Of God, that sholde live so mery as I!’
And atte laste the feend, our enemy,
Putte in his thought that he shold poyson beye,
With which he mighte sleen his felawes tweye;
For-why the feend fond him in swich lyvinge,
That he had leve him to sorwe bringe,
For this was outrely his fulle entente
To sleen hem bothe, and never to repente.
And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie,
390Into the toun, unto a pothecarie,
And preyed him, that he him wolde selle
Som poyson, that he mighte his rattes quelle;
And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe,
That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde y-slawe,
And fayn he wolde wreke him, if he mighte,
On vermin, that destroyed him by nighte.
The youngest of the three, meanwhile, couldn’t stop thinking about those bright new gold florins as he headed into town. “Lord!” he exclaimed to himself. “If only there were some way I could have all that money to myself. There wouldn’t be any man alive who’d live as happily as me.” He thought about it and thought about it until finally the devil himself, enemy of all mankind, put it in his thoughts that he should poison his two friends so that he could have all the money to himself. He headed straight for the town drugstore, where he asked the clerk if he could buy some poison to kill the rats in his house and the skunk that had been eating his chickens at night.