The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer 1343-1400
The Canterbury Tales • Was the first fictional piece of literature printed on the printing press, invented by Johann Gutenberg in 1454. • They were written by Geoffrey Chaucer • Chaucer originally planned to write 124 tales – 4 for each pilgrim. • He only completed 24 tales because he died before he could finish.
The Feudal System • Developed after the Romans no longer controlled England and there was a lack of a stable government. Strong monarchies did not yet exist. • Feudalism was an exchange of labor for property. • The King was at the top and distributed pieces of land to his lords and nobles. • Each lord had to answer to the noble above him. • This trickled all the way down to the peasants.
The Church • The Medieval Church played a far greater role in Medieval England than the Church does today. • The Church dominated everybody's life. All Medieval people, from the king to the peasants believed in God. • During the weekly services people were expected to attend they would have been told of the sheer horrors awaiting for them in Hell.
The Church • Peasants worked for free on Church land. • They paid 10% of what they earned in a year to the Church (this tax was called tithes). Tithes could be paid in either money or in goods produced by the peasant farmers. As peasants had little money, they almost always had to pay in seeds, harvested grain, animals etc. • A failure to pay tithes, so the peasants were told by the Church, would lead to their souls going to Hell after they had died.
Knights • Knights were paid soldiers who protected the land. • Knights had to follow the Code of Chivalry where they vowed to protect the people, remain noble and humble, and stay loyal to the church and king • Knights wore a lot of armor to protect themselves. • It was a great honor to become a knight
Pilgrimages • Long trips to holy places such as shrines, tombs of saints, and holy cities • These trips took place every year, but the most popular time to travel was in spring. • People went for spiritual renewal, to give thanks, to pray for healing or for divine assistance.
Pilgrimages • People would also simply give thanks, do penance, or show devotion. • On these pilgrimages, many travelers would meet and travel together, often stopping at a farm or an inn for the night.
Canterbury • The town of Canterbury lies 50 miles southeast of London • The cathedral in Canterbury was a major destination for English pilgrims. • Typically these pilgrimages to Canterbury took place in April or early spring.
Thomas Becket • Archbishop of Canterbury during the 12th Century • Becket publicly disagreed with the king. Because of this, 4 of his knights considered Becket a traitor and murdered him in 1170.
Thomas Becket • Days after the murder, King Henry II made a pilgrimage to Becket’s tomb to show his respect. • Two years after his death, Tomas Becket was canonized as a saint . • Since then, his tomb has become a popular place for people to make a pilgrimage.
The Prologue • Chaucer uses the prologue to introduce the narrator (Geoffrey Chaucer)and explain why he is involved in the story • The narrator then introduces and gives his impressions of each of the pilgrims • Each pilgrim represents a section of Medieval society. • We are also introduced to the Host who becomes involved in the action.
The Tales • Each pilgrim then tells a tale along the journey. • Each tale was supposed to entertain the pilgrims during the long journey. • Each tale has a moral which is often related to the pilgrim’s personality