The first act is set in the courtyard of the Tabard Inn in Southwark at five in the morning one day around the close of the fourteenth century. The apprentice Hubert leads a small group of colleagues in a birthday madrigal addressed to Cicely, daughter of the innkeeper Geoffrey, with whom he has an understanding. Geoffrey drives them away but Hubert sneaks back. Cicely tells him her father is sending her on the pilgrimage to Canterbury with her maiden aunt to break their relationship. The pilgrims duly arrive and are served. Meanwhile the elderly Sir Christopher and his follower Hal o' the Chepe arrive. Sir Christopher lusts after Cicely, and Hal has a plan to abduct her on the road. Little realising their relationship, he invites Hubert to help them. As they arrange to meet at Sidenbourne, Sir Christopher's wife Dame Margery arrives, suspiciously following her husband. Her questioning of Geoffrey provokes his suspicions also, and at the end of the act all set out for Sidenbourne, either intent on amorous schemes or on foiling them. That night at Sidenbourne confusion reigns. Hubert, dressed as a holy friar, manages to send Geoffrey off on a wild-goose chase, while Dame Margery hides her face whilst keeping a close eye on her husband. With Margery's blessing, Hubert and Cicely run off together and the abduction attempt is foiled. In the final act, Hubert is tried for decoying a maiden by the local judge — Sir Christopher — and condemned to six years in prison, but Dame Margery's intervention on Hubert's side carries the day, and she finally persuades Geoffrey to accept young Hubert's suit.
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