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The Host. The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Kate Brennan. The Host: Character Analysis A lso known as Harry Bailly Occupation: the Innkeeper. Appearance: “A very striking man, our Host withal, and fit to be a marshal in a hall . His eyes were bright , his girth a little wide ;

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the host character analysis a lso known as harry bailly occupation the innkeeper
The Host: Character AnalysisAlso known as Harry BaillyOccupation: the Innkeeper


“A very striking man, our Host withal,

and fit to be a marshal in a hall.

His eyeswerebright, his girth a little wide;

There is no finer burgess in Cheapside.

Bold in his speech, yet wise and full of tact,

there was no manly attribute he lacked,

What’s more he was a merry-hearted man.

After our meal he jokingly began…” (Chaucer, Lines 739- 745).

  • Burgess: middle-class citizen
  • Marshal in Hall: English barrister; respectable position
  • Cheapside: a district of London; the main business street in London
the host character analysis
The Host: Character Analysis
  • Personality:
  • “Truly, gentlemen,
  • You’re very welcome, and I can’t think when
  • – Upon my word I’m telling you know lie –
  • I’ve seen a gathering here that looked so spry,
  • No, not this year, as in this tavern now.
  • I’d think you up some fun if I knew how
  • And, as it happens, a thought has just occurred
  • And it will cost you nothing, on my word” (Chaucer, Line 749-753).
  • The Host is very charming. He constantly compliments the pilgrims, in order for him to gain their liking and trust. While he says his form of entertainment (the story contest) will cost them nothing, it does in reality. Therefore, this quote also displays the Host’s manipulative behavior.
  • Spry: active, vigorous, brisk
the host character analysis1
The Host: Character Analysis


“Indeed, there’s little pleasure for your bones

Riding along and all as dumb as stones.

So let me then propose for your excitement,

Just as I said, a suitable employment” (Chaucer, lines 760- 764).

The Host is extremely persuasive. He describes the long, boring pilgrimage to Canterbury, and offers a form of entertainment. While the Host appears generous, he has selfish motives. The pilgrims easily succumb to his charm.

Dumb: Silent; speachless

the host character analysis2
The Host: Character Analysis


“That is to say who gives the fullest measure

Of good morality and general pleasure,

He shall be given a supper, paid by all,

Here in this tavern, in this very hall” (Chaucer, lines 784-787)

The following quote further displays the Host’s manipulative behavior. While on the surface, the story contest is simply a way to entertain the people, it is also the Host’s business strategy. He is ensuring the pilgrims will come back to his inn; therefore, the Host makes the money at the end.

**Side note: The Tabard is close beside The Bell (as mentioned on line 706). The Bell was believed to be a house of prostitution back in Chaucer’s time. This adds a touch of humor to The Canterbury Tales.


“You’re off the Canterbury – well, Godspeed!

Blessed St. Thomas answer to your need! (Chaucer, lines 756-757).

St. Thomas refers to Thomas Becket; also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury. The pilgrims were traveling to Canterbury in order to honor Thomas Becket.


Pilgrims say:

“Of course we all agreed, in fact we swore it

Delightedly, and made entreaty too

That he should ask as he proposed to do,

Become our Governor in short, and be

Judge of our tales and general referee,

And set the supper at a certain price.

We promised to be ruled by his advice” (Chaucer, lines 798-803).

The pilgrims happily give all control over the contest to the Host . The Host is also setting the price of the dinner. Basically, he is the one pulling all of the strings.

Entreaty: An earnest request or petition; a plea; a prayer

Referee: Ultimate judge

modern day host
Modern Day Host

Lumiere from the Beauty and the Beast