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Canterbury Tales. Notes. Prologue. Time of year – Spring – April People go on pilgrimages to Catholic Shrines Pray to the martyrs, saints for help for illness, difficulties, etc. Chaucer – narrator 29 fellow travelers meet at The Tabard Inn

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  • Time of year – Spring – April

    • People go on pilgrimages to Catholic Shrines

      • Pray to the martyrs, saints for help for illness, difficulties, etc.

      • Chaucer – narrator

      • 29 fellow travelers meet at The Tabard Inn

      • All going to Canterbury – Shrine of St. Thomas Beckett

      • Introduces each character for our enjoyment or education.


  • Use of humor, irony, and exaggeration to expose and criticize people’s vices.

  • The religious of the Church

  • The Lay people of the Church

  • The righteous of the Church

  • Sins of humanity

    • Greed

    • Arrogance

    • Pride

    • Woman equality


  • Christian

  • Back from the Crusades; fighting for the Church; list of battles

  • Example of chivalry- knight demonstrates honor, courtesy, truth, generousness

  • Humble; modest; not boorish (self- aggrandizing, boastful)

  • Chaucer sees him as an honorable knight


  • Good horses (necessary)

  • Clothing – useful, worn from battle

  • 1st concern – prayer to God – Thanks for still being alive. Not concerned about how he looks for the ladies. First priority God and country.

  • Truly honorable person

Squire knight s son
Squire – Knight’s son

  • Young

  • Good Looking – hair perfectly styled

  • Clothing – impeccable

  • Has had little experience in battle; but battles he won was for impressing the ladies.

  • Main concern – having fun; enjoying the girls

  • However, he remains respectful to his father. Serves him dinner.

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  • Prioress – just under the abbess (superior in charge). Has responsibility as a role model to the novice.

  • Chaucer ridicules her through humor and irony.

  • Sang; spoke French (common, not sophisticated).

  • Well mannered to a fault; tries too hard to impress. “she could carry a morsel up and keep it from falling..”

  • Courtliness (refined behavior)…not a trace of grease…(lines 135..)

  • Chaucer is laughing at her. “ She certainly was entertaining.”

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  • “straining to counterfeit a courtly kind of grace”

  • She is trying really hard to act like a nun should, but is failing.

  • She tries to show concern for animals. Cried over a dead mouse. She fed her food to her dogs (more concerned about her dogs than her true job of helping people). Was upset if someone hit her dogs.

  • Truth – Romantic, coral trinket, beautiful green beads, golden brooch (Love conquers all things).

  • Trouble with her vows.

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  • Chaucer ridicules the monk

  • Hunter

  • Fine dogs, horses, clothing, all costly

  • Ignored his vows of St Benet, St. Maur, St. Augustine.

  • Prelate – high ranking priest

    • Should be setting example for the new priests beneath him.

    • Quiet life; agriculture

    • Enjoyed the life of freedom, expensive taste, did what he wanted.

Friar limiter
Friar - Limiter

  • Corrupt

  • Had a license from the Pope to beg

  • Vow of poverty; lived off of what people gave him.

  • Heard confessions for a price

  • Blackmailed all with fear of Hell without sins being forgiven

  • Well spoken to get what he wants

  • Clothing – wealthy- represents how corrupt he truly is. (page 120 – lines 265-270)


  • Attack on this priest

    • He was a noble pillar to his Order – facetious

    • Flirted with the girls; gave them gifts

    • Scammed elderly with charm. Took their money without guilt.

    • Focus was where the money could be found

      • Taverns, innkeepers, barmaids

      • Stayed away from the very poor and needy. No money there.

        • Lepers, beggars, etc.

Oxford cleric
Oxford Cleric

  • Youth

  • Studies to the detriment of his health

  • Naïve

  • Can’t find work in the church; secular work gives him enough money to buy more books. He should be buying food.

  • Man of little words; soaked up what others said to educate himself.

  • Taught moral virtue when asked. Very respectful.


  • Wealthy

  • Shares what he has with everyone

  • Has the best of everything

  • Beard – White as a daisy-petal –Santa Claus bringing gifts

  • Sanguine man, high-colored and benign.

    • Humors are in balance

    • Good humored man

    • Enjoys life

    • Unhappy with his servants if they do not do their jobs.

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  • Chaucer shows the reality of the filth ongoing in society.

  • Cook – excellent

  • Cleanliness – irony – boils on his skin

Skipper doctor
Skipper & Doctor

  • Skipper

    • Did follow rules; stole alcohol from employers

    • Those who stole from him were killed

  • Doctor

    • Determined illnesses through astrology

    • Worked with the town druggist to scam his patients

    • Didn’t read the Bible

    • Lived a wealthy life off of the ignorance of people

Wife of bath
Wife of Bath

  • Deaf

  • Gap teeth

  • Older woman- hefty

  • “experienced” – 5 husbands – 4/5 died

  • Considers herself to be an expert on love

  • Clothing – expensive

  • Considers herself to be a pillar of the church

  • Considers herself better than other women. No woman dared cut in front of her entering the church.


  • Chaucer considers him to be a truly holy man.

  • Rich – not in money, but in care for others.

  • Devout to his parishioners; taught them the Bible.

  • Patient and kind to all

  • Lived with the poor. No matter the weather, or illness, he came to them in need at all times.

  • He was forgiving of all men’s sins, no matter how grievous. He held the code of silence of confession.


  • Overseer of the manor and its workers.

  • Old, choleric (yellow bile- outbursts of anger) and thin.

  • Unscrupulous; corrupt; greedy; mean. Demands more money than is owed. Lives a luxurious lifestyle, including buying gifts for his boss.


  • Ugly

  • Face covered with boils; scabby eyebrows; scrawny beard.

  • Feared by children; face of nightmares

  • Alcoholic; bad smell; breath of onions

  • Chaucer’s attack - “He was a noble varlet (scoundrel) and a kind one, You’d meet none better if you went to find one.”


  • Blackmailed ignorant. Give me wine and you can have your concubine…..give me money and I will not send you to the Church court for excommunication, damning you to Hell.


  • Travels with the Summoner. Both corrupt.

  • Chaucer’s attack – “a gentle Pardoner”

  • Hair –yellow wax; rat tails

  • Bulging eye like a rabbit

  • Voice of a goat

  • Wallet filled with “pardons”- payment for your sins.

  • Holy relics in his cap – FAKE

  • Chaucer’s attack – Gelding

  • Fake relics – pillow-case (Mary’s veil); pig’s bones

  • Chaucer’s attack – “he was a noble ecclesiast” (clergy)