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The Canterbury Tales. A Social Commentary. What’s it about?. Written by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400 Considered a “Frame Story,” meaning it is a collection of stories inside one greater story. The Journey Begins . . .

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the canterbury tales

The Canterbury Tales

A Social Commentary

what s it about
What’s it about?
  • Written by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400
  • Considered a “Frame Story,” meaning it is a collection of stories inside one greater story.
the journey begins
The Journey Begins . . .
  • Chaucer uses a religious pilgrimage to display all segments of medieval England.
  • The Canterbury Tales begins with a Prologue,
    • Narrator, presumably Chaucer himself, meets 29 other pilgrims at the Tabard Inn, located in a suburb of London.
  • As the pilgrims prepare for their journey, the host of the Inn, Harry Bailey, sets a challenge:
    • Each pilgrim tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two stories on the return trip. The person who tells the best tale will be treated to a feast hosted by the other pilgrims.
what s it about1
What’s it about?
  • There is a group of 30 pilgrims traveling to the shrine of Thomas A Beckett for a religious journey.
  • Each tells a story on his or her journey
  • This would be like if we were to get a group of 30 today and we had a TV show where we learned something about each
what s it about2
What’s it about?
  • CT is considered a “portrait of the time period.”
  • It introduces us to many different types of people who are traveling together
  • What do you do while traveling on a long trip?
  • How would people characterize our time period?
snapshots of an era
Snapshots of an Era. . .
  • In the Prologue, Chaucer examines three segments of Medieval England:
    • 1. The Old Feudal order – these are all of the pilgrims associated with the feudal class system. Ie. knight
    • 2. The Merchant Class – this was the rising middle class of the time; towns and cities were emerging and therefore necessitated the need for skilled services: ie. cook
    • 3. The Ecclesiastical (Church/Religious) Class – these were all of the members of the church. Chaucer is most critical of this segment of his society.
      • Ie. Monk
characterizing our time period
Characterizing our time period
  • People watching is fun… why else is reality TV popular?
  • Ellen Reality TV Video
  • Reality TV Montage
  • Canterbury Tales takes archetypes and MAKES FUN OF MANY OF THEM!
  • By making fun of them, Chaucer intends to expose their strengths, weaknesses and overall natures.
  • This is called satire.
  • Official Definition: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. ( From Google Dictionary)
  • Current Satire
  • The Onion
  • Exposing our leaders
  • Political cartoons

literary analysis

Each character in The Canterbury Tales represents a different segment of society in Chaucer’s time. By noting the virtues and faults of each, Chaucer provides social commentary, writing that offers insight into society, its values, and its customs. While reading, draw conclusions from the characters about Chaucer’s views on English society.

Literary Analysis

ellen s social commentary
Ellen’s Social Commentary
  • Ellen Reality TV Video
  • George Carlin's Social Commentary-American Dream
works cited
Works Cited
  • Google Dictionary
  • Holt Elements of Literature (our textbook)