Outline • Geoffrey Chaucer background • Estates System • Rise of Middle Class • Corruption of Church • Tales • Pilgrims • Use of Two Voices • What We Will Cover
Geoffrey Chaucer1343-1400 • Born in London and is buried in Westminster Abbey. • Lived during the Middle Ages, or Medieval Period. • As an adult, he belonged to the upper-middle class. • Information known about his life is gathered from mention of him in 3rd party documents.
Chaucer • Chaucer held many jobs including: yeoman, courier, diplomat, comptroller, clerk of king’s work and writer. • King Richard II was one of his patrons • Close with John of Gaunt • Married to Phillippa, had three children
Chaucer • First work: Book of the Duchess written as an elegy for John of Gaunt’s wife, Blanche. • Other works include Troilus and Criseyde, Parlement of Foules, The House of Fame, and The Legend of Good Women. • Best known for The Canterbury Tales.
Estates System • Rigid system, based on birth and wealth, that dictated social rank and supposed morality of a person. • The “ranks”: Knobility, Clergy, Lower Class • Knobles: Kings, Queens, Dukes, Knights • Squires and Yeoman sometimes considered here too • Clergy: Members of the church- nuns, priests, monks, friars. • Parson and other poorer church related members would NOT be in this estate. • Lower Class: Everyone else, especially the poor.
Rise of the Middle Class • Knoble class ruled all others, clergy often corrupt, what about everyone else? • All others were considered “lower class,” but began to shift because there was a distinct “middle class.” • Middle class: Doctors, Lawyers, Franklins, some wealthy merchants and craftsmen. • More people were being educated and were literate. • Society needed a place for this rising class. • Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales during this time when the Estates System was beginning to fail.
Corruption of the Church • Below the very rich, powerful, controlling Knobles, the next important rank was clergy. • Many abused the power they had: • Took bribes • Kept money • Papal Indulgences • Supposed to take three vows: • Obedience • Chastity • Poverty
The Tales • First major work to be written in English, not Latin • 27 Pilgrims, Narrator (Chaucer) and Host, head on a Pilrimage to Canterbury Cathedral • Thomas a Beckett’s Shrine • Tale telling competition for entertainment • Judged on morality of tale • Not the first time such a framework was used • Boccaccio
The Pilgrims • “Cross-section” of the Medieval Period • Includes members from all classes and of varying rank and morality. • Each pilgrim gets described in the General Prologue by the Narrator, then tells his or her own tale later. • Chaucer the narrator describes their appearance, attire, estate, actions, and what they say. • Wanted to criticize society.
Use of Two Voices • Chaucer the Narrator/Pilgrim and Chaucer the author. • Chaucer the author recognized failure of the Estates System and the corruption of church • How could he write a critical piece about his society, if those in charge would censor it, or lock him up?
Use of Two Voices • Creates “naïve” pilgrim character who narrates the tales • Claims he is merely reporting exactly what he observes and makes no judgment • Readers can make obvious connections to his criticisms, but knobles and clergy cannot punish Chaucer without acknowledging the flaws in the pilgrims as truly present in society. • Able to demonstrate that highest ranking people, specifically the clergy, may not be the most moral. • Poorer pilgrims seem to be most “good,” and most high ranking clergy members break at least one of the three vows.
What We Will Do • We will be reading the General Prologue which: • Explains purpose of the Tales • Explains the scope of the Tales • Describes each Pilgrim • We will be reading a few of the tales the pilgrims tell on the way: • Prioress’ Tale • Parson’s Tale • Friar’s Tale • Pardoner’s Tale
What We Will Do • We will be grouping the Pilgrims according to Estate. • Analyze how they are portrayed morally. • Interpret Chaucer’s opinion of each Pilgrim, each Estate, and society as a whole. • Identify corrupt Pilgrims and notice how Chaucer goes about pointing this out. • Compare and contrast morally good and morally bad Pilgrims • Understand Chaucer’s true purpose for writing these Tales