The General Prologue - The Cook
To boil the chickens with the marrow-bones,
And flavour tartly and with galingale.
Well could he tell a draught of London ale.
And he could roast and seethe and broil and fry,(5)
And make a good thick soup, and bake a pie.
But very ill it was, it seemed to me,
That on his shin a deadly sore had he;
For sweet blanc-mange, he made it with the best.
— Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
In the 14th Century, when The Canterbury Tales is set, England suffered from the Black Death, also known as the bubonic plague, which claimed an estimated 200 million lives. The Cook's leg sore would've been indication enough that he was dying and would likely have infected some if not all of the other pilgrims on this journey before it ended.