An exemplum is a short story within a story-or within an essay or speech-that is used to illustrate a point or highlight a moral lesson. These can be parables, fables, folktales, etc. Exempla can be nonfiction-a story from actual history can be used to make a point. Exempla can also be fiction-mythology or folktales.
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is full of exemplum. One of these is the Pardoner's Tale, which makes a point about greed:
In Flaundreswhylom was a companye
Of yonge folk, that hauntedenfolye,
As ryot, hasard, stewes, and tavernes,
Wher-as, with harpes, lutes, and giternes,...
O cursed sinne, ful of cursednesse!
Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileinye
And with his precious herte-blood thee boghte,
Thou art so fals and so unkinde, allas!
"I've come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land.For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist."
Many of the parables of Jesus are examples of exempla. For example, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan when he was asked about the nature of neighbors. The story is told to illustrate the nature of a true neighbor.
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