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Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. Biography. Born in London in 1342 into middle class. Worked as page for upper class family. Could read French, Latin, and Italian 1359-1360 went to France during the Hundred Year’s War

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The Canterbury Tales


  • Born in London in 1342 into middle class.

  • Worked as page for upper class family.

  • Could read French, Latin, and Italian

  • 1359-1360 went to France during the Hundred Year’s War

  • 1367-1378 made several journeys abroad on diplomatic and commercial missions.

  • 1732 went to Italy and became familiar with works of Dante, Patriarch, and Boccaccio.

The canterbury tales background
The Canterbury TalesBackground

  • Chaucer’s plan was for each character to tell four tales, two on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. But instead of 120 tales, he only completed 22 tales.

  • The work was first conceived in 1386

  • Chaucer’s realism is unique to the age

  • Chaucer’s aim was to create a literature and poetic language for all classes of society

  • The Canterbury Tales contains nearly every type of medieval fiction at its best.

  • Importance of pilgrimages in the Middle Ages

The canterbury tales
The Canterbury Tales

  • Chaucer endows types with realty

  • Use of frame tale or story within a story

  • Double view – secular and spiritual

  • Pilgrims are both individual and representative

  • Narrator is both in and out of narrative

  • Pilgrims represent a wide spectrum of ranks and occupations.

  • Tales match tellers

  • Tales are juxtaposed to bring out contrasts

  • Use of detail, exaggeration, focus on single quality, sudden thrust

The canterbury tales1
The Canterbury Tales

  • Art of being at once involved and detached from a given situation

  • Rich suggestiveness of details

  • A flash of intuition illuminates the character

The pilgrims
The Pilgrims

  • The pilgrims are types, not individuals

  • Taken together, they represent the whole range of life in Chaucer’s England.

The host
The Host

  • He gets things going and keeps them moving

  • Varied roles of innkeeper, master of ceremonies, literary critic, social commentator,

  • Mediator between the tales and teller

  • He is genial.

The pilgrims1
The Pilgrims

  • Knight – fights for Christian virtues

  • Squire – Knight’s son

  • Yeoman= travels with Knight and Squire

  • Prioress – ironic portrait; she longs for a life beyond the convent; like a romance heroine

  • Monk – care’s nothing for monk’s life; loves horses and hunting

The pilgrims2
The Pilgrims

  • Friar – makes his living by begging; hears confessions; meddles in secular matters

  • Merchant – a rich man; lends money for a price

  • Clerk – loves books and learning; sacrifices taste for learning

  • Franklin – a prosperous man; loves pleasure

  • Five Guildsmen, Cook, Shipman

The pilgrims3
The Pilgrims

  • Doctor – a satirical portrait; astrology; humors

  • Wife of Bath – most well-known portrait; she knows what she wants and how to get it

  • Parson – an idealized portrait; attempts to live by Christ’s example

  • Plowman – a favorable portrait; an honest worker

  • Miller – Chaucer detests; likes to tell coarse tales

  • Manciple – a shrewd businessman

  • Reeve – like a bailiff; not honest

The pilgrims4
The Pilgrims

  • Summoner- Chaucer detests; lecherous

  • Pardoner – a cunning deceptive man; sells indulgences; dishonest