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Canterbury Tales The General Prologue. Canterbury Tales ► Written around 1387-1400 ► Written by Geoffrey Chaucer  Soldier  Courtier  Royal emissary.

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Presentation on theme: "Canterbury Tales The General Prologue. Canterbury Tales ► Written around 1387-1400 ► Written by Geoffrey Chaucer  Soldier  Courtier  Royal emissary."— Presentation transcript:

1 Canterbury Tales The General Prologue

2 Canterbury Tales ► Written around ► Written by Geoffrey Chaucer  Soldier  Courtier  Royal emissary to Europe  Controller of customs  Justice of the peace  Member of Parliament  artist

3 Prologue ► Chaucer has the idea to bring together 29 “sondry folk” in a pilgrimage (“by aventure [chance]”)  Represent a wide range of 14 th century English society ► Makes comprehensive study of humans ► Perfect way to present his irony

4 Prologue ► Represent a wide range of 14 th century English society  3 Groups Represent: ► Feudalism  Landownership and service ► Knight’s yeoman ► Franklin ► Urbanization – emerging middle class  Change in feudal structure ► Doctor ► Guildsmen ► The Church  One of the most powerful elements in medieval soceity ► 9 of pilgrims belong to clergy

5 Prologue ► Each pilgrim  tell two stories on the way to Canterbury  two stories on the way back ► Plan proposed by Harry Bailey, host of the Tabard Inn ► Teller of best tale is rewarded at the end  A dinner provided by his fellow pilgrims at the Tabard ► Harry Bailey is judge

6 Prologue ► Prologue sets the scene and introduces reader to the characters ► Between many of the tales Chaucer expounds upon the personalities of the pilgrims.  Number of arguments that prepare for subsequent tales  Some pilgrims introduce a tale with a commentary on his/her own personal life

7 Prologue ► Chaucer’s project was never finished  Only 24 tales exist ► Tales were probably composed at various times in Chaucer’s life

8 Prologue ► Begins with a long, rhetorical sentence in “high style” describing spring. ► Gradually descends into a more “realistic” style of expository narrative.

9 Prologue ► Group is on its way to the holy shrine of St. Thomas ă Becket  Archbishop of Canterbury ► opposed Henry II over the balance between royal and religious power ► was murdered in the cathedral  Considered a martyr and later made a saint  His blood was held to contain great curative qualities, restoring health to the sick

10 ► Knight Knight ► Squire Squire ► Yeoman Yeoman ► Prioress Prioress ► Monk Monk ► Friar Friar ► Merchant Merchant ► Oxford Cleric (Clerk) Oxford Cleric (Clerk) Oxford Cleric (Clerk)

11 ► Sergeant Sergeant ► Franklin Franklin ► Guildsmen Guildsmen ► Cook Cook ► Skipper Skipper ► Doctor Doctor ► Wife of Bath Wife of Bath Wife of Bath ► Parson Parson

12 ► Plowman Plowman ► Miller Miller ► Manciple Manciple ► Reeve Reeve ► Summoner Summoner ► Pardoner Pardoner ► Poet ► Host (innkeeper Harry Bailey) Host

13 The Knight ► Was an honorable warrior who fought for Christianity against the heathens. ► Appropriate that he is the first pilgrim to be introduced because he stands at the top of the social hierarchy, thus is the most socially prominent person on the journey. ► Tells the first story; many offer him compliments. ► All of the battles mentioned that he fought in were religious wars of some kind.

14 The Knight ► Prologue’s description:  Worthy man – “True, perfect, and gentle”  Loved the following ► Chivalry ► Fidelity ► Honor (good reputation) ► Generosity ► courtesy  Honored for his worthiness in war

15 The Knight ► Prologue’s description:  Fought in many battles/ had “been at many a noble expedition” ► Alexandria ► Prussia ► Lithuania/Latvia ► Russia ► Grenada at siege of Algeciras to Belmarye (north Africa) ► Morocco ► The Mediterranean ► Tiemcen ► Turkey

16 The Knight ► Prologue’s description:  Even though he was brave, he was prudent  Deportment: “meek as a maid”  Never said any rude word in all his life to any person  Horses were good  Clothing/dress ► Not gaudily dressed ► Tunic of coarse cloth, stained with rust from his chain mail suit  Has just returned from an expedition

17 Squire ► Knight’s attendant ► Younger and flashier than knight  Hair is well-coifed  Clothes are “embroidered like a meadow bright”  “Short was his gown, the sleeves were long and wide” ► Short, embroidered gowns and long wide sleeves were the marks of the ultrafashionable in the late 14 th century ► Short coats were declared “indecent” and embroidery was called unnecessarily expensive

18 Squire ► Has done some service in war ► Seems more interested in singing and dancing ► Portrayed not as admirably as the Knight

19 Yeoman ► Small landowner; formerly knight’s servants (as this Yeoman is the Knight’s only servant) ► Doesn’t like to talk about himself ► Equipment in perfect condition ► Close-cropped hair and weathered face ► Wears medal of St. Christopher (patron saint of travelers)

20 Prioress ► Nun – in charge of the other nuns of the convent  Takes vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience ► Swears by St. Loy – irony  Perfect manners; refusal to swear ► Known as Madame Eglantyne ► High forehead – supposed to indicate intelligence or good breeding ► Wears trinket with “amor vincit omnia” – interest in love?

21 Prioress ► Seems to have some respect for her, but does satirize her at the same time  Sings well, but through her nose  Spoke daintily in French, but her French is not good (school of Stratford-atte-Bowe)  Is very concerned with courtly manners, but had “to conterfeit a courtly kind of grace”  Keeps pets and cries if an animal is hurt, but her primary concern should be human souls and welfare

22 Monk ► Clergy –  lived in monastery, center of learning;  vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience;  vowed not to leave the lands of the monastery without permission of their superior ► “Rule of good St. Benet or St. Maur / As old and strict he tended to ignore” ► “He took the modern world’s more spacious way”

23 Monk ► His dress and way he spends his time are in opposition to monastic rule  Many horses in his stable  Likes to hunt  Wears rich clothes and jewelry  Enjoys good food ► Chaucer’s sarcasm in lines

24 Friar ► Religious – went into the world to preach, help the poor, and cure the sick ► One duty was to hear people’s confessions and absolve or forgive them with a penance ► This Friar (his name is Hubert) gives light penances because people pay him.

25 Friar ► “His neck was whiter than a lily-flower”  Cowardice  Immorality ► Double-worsted semi-cope (cape) ► Much emphasis on his greed  “anywhere a profit might accrue”  “though a widow mightn’t have a shoe, / So pleasant was his holy how-d’ye-do / He got his farthing from her just the same”  “Arbitrate disputes... (for a small fee)”

26 Merchant ► Salesperson ► Wants to appear prosperous; arrogant  Brightly colored clothes  Beaver hat (the latest rage)  Daintily buckled boots ► Actually is in debt ► His name is not known

27 Oxford Cleric ► Student (probably for the Church) ► Thin (both he and his horse) ► Coat is threadbare ► Preferred books (expensive) over clothes and entertainment ► Only care is study ► Respectable, moral, reserved

28 Sergeant at Law ► Lawyer, served as King’s legal advisor ► Chaucer doesn’t spend much time on him; finds him unremarkable. ► Though he has a high position and can do his job well, Chaucer seems to disapprove  “Though there was nowhere one so busy as he, / He was less busy than he seemed to be.”  “Of his appearance I have said enough.”

29 Franklin ► Country landowner ► Man of some substance, but just below the nobility ► Ruddy complexion – cheerful ► Lived for pleasure  reference to Epicurus, Greek philosopher who taught the goal of life is pleasure  Glutton; obsessed with food

30 Five Guildsmen ► Guilds – organization of trades people who taught their trade to apprentices (trainees) ► “So trim and fresh” ► “Knives of purest silver” ► Chaucer pokes fun at their social pretensions.

31 Cook ► Skilled in preparing medieval dishes ► Has ulcer on his knee Skipper ► Captain of a ship ► Characterized as somewhat brutal with prisoners and dishonest with wine merchants Doctor ► Treats people according to laws of astrology and medieval theory of humors ► Profits from the illnesses of others

32 Wife of Bath ► Woman from city of Bath; has been married 5 times  Goes against the teachings of the church (I Cor 7:39) ► Has traveled widely  Many religious pilgrimages  Not common for women to have traveled so much  Wants to be first to the altar (people approached altar according to social rank)

33 Wife of Bath ► Fine clothes ► Deafness & gap teeth  Medieval physiognomists believed physical abnormalities could indicate character weaknesses.  May indicate that she was a good judge in matters of love or skilled in matters of love ► May be patterned after Chaucer’s paternal grandmother who was married 3 times

34 Parson ► Village clergyman or parish priest ► Poor ► “Rich in holy thought and work” ► “Truly knew Christ’s gospel and would preach it” ► Not greedy  “Hated cursing to extort a fee”  Gave to the poor from church offerings and his personal property

35 Parson ► Visited the sick ► Two metaphors  Shepherd of his flock  Gold vs. iron: If gold corrodes, what will iron do? If the priest sets a bad example, what will his parish members do? ► Actions speak louder than words

36 Plowman ► Laborer (increasing importance in medieval society) ► True Christian layman ► Wore tabard smock and rode a mare (simple, common)

37 Miller ► Operates a mill to grind grain or make flour ► Description is mostly physical ► Large man ► Red beard ► Wart on nose ► Compared to sow or fox, a spade, a sow’s ear, & furnace door  Rough, uncouth, wild, belligerent

38 Manciple ► Steward or servant who purchased provisions for a college, or in this case, for one of the Inns of Court, the four ancient law schools in London ► Although uneducated, the Manciple can outsmart his masters.  “His masters... All versed in the abstrusest of legal knowledge... And yet [he] could wipe their eye.”

39 Reeve ► Superintendent of an estate ► Choleric and thin ► Does his job well ► Is mean to the serfs and has become rich through embezzlement  “feared like the plague he was, by those beneath”  “he had grown rich... With subtle loans or gifts of goods”

40 Summoner ► Employees of ecclesiastical courts, sent by the justices to summon those suspected of offenses against Church law ► Notorious for blackmailing people by threatening to have them summoned ► Drinks til all is hazy ► Limited education ► Goes easy on offenders if they pay him

41 Summoner ► Gross appearance  “Face on fire” from boils or pimples  Narrow eyes  Scabby brows  Thin beard  Terrible breath

42 Pardoner ► Sold pardons, often greedy, taking advantage of poor ► Were not supposed to sell relics  Remains (bones, hair, garments) of a holy person ► Came from Hospital of Blessed Mary of Roncivalles near Charing Cross (common offenders – series of money scandals in 1380s)

43 Pardoner ► Long blonde hair (violation of church code)  Hangs like rat tails ► Voice like a goat ► Bulging eyeballs ► Greed  “In one short day,.. He drew more than the parson in a month or two”  “And (well he could) win silver from the crowd. / That’s why he sang so merrily and loud.”

44 The Host ► Probably a real person ► Elsewhere in the Canterbury Tales he is called Harry Bailey, evidence that such a person did operate a tavern in Southwark during Chaucer’s time ► Merry-hearted man

45 The Host ► Suggests each pilgrim tells 2 stories on the way to Canterbury and 2 stories on the way back ► He will be the judge ► Winner receives free dinner at the Tabard ► They decide who will go first by “drawing straws.”


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