Essays on the canterbury tales prologue


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The Yeoman is excellent at caring for arrows, and travels armed with a huge amount of weaponry: arrows, a bracer arm guard , a sword, a buckler, and a dagger as sharp as a spear. He wears an image of St. Christopher on his breast. Having now introduced the Knight the highest ranking pilgrim socially , the narrator now moves on to the clergy, beginning with The Prioress , called 'Madame Eglantine' or, in modern parlance, Mrs. She could sweetly sing religious services, speaks fluent French and has excellent table manners. She is so charitable and piteous, that she would weep if she saw a mouse caught in a trap, and she has two small dogs with her.

She wears a brooch with the inscription 'Amor vincit omnia' 'Love conquers all'. The Prioress brings with her her 'chapeleyne' secretary , the Second Nun.

General Prologue Essay of Chaucer essays

The Monk is next, an extremely fine and handsome man who loves to hunt, and who follows modern customs rather than old traditions. This is no bookish monk, studying in a cloister, but a man who keeps greyhounds to hunt the hare. The Monk is well-fed, fat, and his eyes are bright, gleaming like a furnace in his head.

The Friar who follows him is also wanton and merry, and he is a 'lymytour' by trade a friar licensed to beg in certain districts.


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He is extremely well beloved of franklins landowners and worthy women all over the town. He hears confession and gives absolution, and is an excellent beggar, able to earn himself a farthing wherever he went. His name is Huberd.

The Merchant wears a forked beard, motley clothes and sat high upon his horse. He gives his opinion very solemnly, and does excellent business as a merchant, never being in any debt. But, the narrator ominously remarks, 'I noot how men hym calle' I don't know how men call him, or think of him.

The Clerk follows the Merchant. A student of Oxford university, he would rather have twenty books by Aristotle than rich clothes or musical instruments, and thus is dressed in a threadbare short coat. He only has a little gold, which he tends to spend on books and learning, and takes huge care and attention of his studies. He never speaks a word more than is needed, and that is short, quick and full of sentence the Middle-English word for 'meaningfulness' is a close relation of 'sententiousness'.

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The Man of Law referred to here as 'A Sergeant of the Lawe' is a judicious and dignified man, or, at least, he seems so because of his wise words. He is a judge in the court of assizes, by letter of appointment from the king, and because of his high standing receives many grants. He can draw up a legal document, the narrator tells us, and no-one can find a flaw in his legal writings. Yet, despite all this money and social worth, the Man of Law rides only in a homely, multi-coloured coat.

A Franklin travels with the Man of Law. He has a beard as white as a daisy, and of the sanguine humour dominated by his blood. The Franklin is a big eater, loving a piece of bread dipped in wine, and is described though not literally! His house is always full of meat pie, fish and meat, so much so that it 'snewed in his hous of mete and drynke'.

He changes his meats and drinks according to what foods are in season. A Haberdasher and a Carpenter, a Weaver, a Dyer and a Tapycer weaver of tapestries are next described, all of them clothed in the same distinctive guildsman's dress. Note that none of these pilgrims, in the end, actually tell a tale. A Cook had been brought along to boil the chicken up with marrow bones and spices, but this particular Cook knows a draught of ale very well indeed, according to the narrator. The Cook could roast and simmer and boil and fry, make stews and hashes and bake a pie well, but it was a great pity that, on his shin, he has an ulcer.


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A Shipman from Dartmouth is next - tanned brown from the hot summer sun, riding upon a carthorse, and wearing a gown of coarse woolen cloth which reaches to his knees. The Shipman had, many times, drawn a secret draught of wine on board ship, while the merchant was asleep. The Shipman has weathered many storms, and knows his trade: he knows the locations of all the harbors from Gotland to Cape Finistere.

His shape is called 'the Maudelayne'. A Doctor of Medicine is the next pilgrim described, clad in red and blue, and no-one in the world can match him in speaking about medicine and surgery. He knows the cause of every illness, what humor engenders them, and how to cure them. He is a perfect practitioner of medicine, and he has apothecaries ready to send him drugs and mixtures. He is well-read in the standard medical authorities, from the Greeks right through to Chaucer's contemporary Gilbertus Anglicus. The Doctor, however, has not studied the Bible.

The Wife of Bath was 'somdel deef' a little deaf, as her tale will later expand upon and that was a shame. The Wife of Bath is so adept at making cloth that she surpasses even the cloth-making capitals of Chaucer's world, Ypres and Ghent, and she wears coverchiefs linen coverings for the head which must the narrator assumes have 'weyeden ten pound'. Each one of his colorful counterparts is described in a mindful, yet unbiased way.

He judges each person by his own standards of moral behavior.

Canterbury Tales Essay

Chaucer also seems to keep in mind that he is human himself, and therefore, by that reason alone, he cannot condemn any of his characters' behavior. At the same time, Chaucer does not commend iniquity. He understands the difference between what is just and immoral. Furthermore, Chaucer seems to have more than one definition for what constitutes a righteous person and a wicked one. Certain characters are considered good because of the way they conduct themselves and certain duties they perform.

The same goes for the way Chaucer approaches the malevolent side of the spectrum. Some characters are considered sinful because of their greed and selfishness. Check system status.

Analysis Of The General Prologue To The Canterbury Tales Essays

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Stanford Libraries

SearchWorks Catalog Stanford Libraries. Critical essays on the General prologue to the Canterbury tales, Geoffrey Chaucer. Responsibility editors, Linda Cookson, Bryan Loughrey. Imprint Harlow : Longman, Physical description p. Series Longman literature guides.

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