Geoffrey Chaucer. Canterbury Tales. Geoffrey Chaucer. Born a member of the middle class Trained for a career in the Court of King Edward III and served in the army Held several government positions and eventually married one of the ladies of the court. Canterbury Tales.
Henry had commented “By the eyes of God, is there not one who will deliver me from this low-born priest.”
Thinking the King wished Becket dead, four knights went to the Cathedral to kill Becket.
When the King realized what they were doing, he sent a messenger to stop them, but it was too late.Thomas a’ Becket
Traditionally, by law, the knight of the code was obliged to uprightness; by birth, the knight if title and status was honored and presumed honorable.
Chaucer’s knight breaks away from the artificial and fixed condition of birth and becomes a knight of the spirit, living up to an aristocracy of the soul.
The other pilgrims, too, are entertaining and intriguing portraits from medieval lifeChaucer’s Knight
To present a cross section of his own society (see social class structure on handout)
Problem for students is the fact that Chaucer intentionally misleads the reader by implying that some of the characters be accepted in given social standings because of the company they keepTwo Purposes
“It seems a reasonable thing to say
What their condition was, the full array
Of each of them, as it appeared to me
According to profession and degree
And what apparel they were riding in;
And at the knight I therefore will begin.”
In taking Chaucer at his word that he will describe his characters “according to . . . degree” (social ranking), the modern reader begins with the knight and reads the Yeoman as the third highest rank. (Check your handout)Prologue
Chaucer presents a variety of people (representing diverse ages, social classes, and interests) and various tales (genre types) whose purpose is to both entertain and instruct.
Chaucer also gives an interior organization, a pattern, to guide the reader through the tales.An anthology of the popular genre of the Middle Ages