The Social Structure of Canterbury Tales

In the famous works, “Canterbury Tales,” Geoffrey Chaucer tells of twenty-nine pilgrims that are “en route” to Canterbury. On the way there, the band of pilgrims entertain each other with a series of tall tales in order to shorten the trip. Chaucer, (the host) introduces the each of the pilgrims with honest and wholeheartedly descriptions introduce them with their own personality. Throughout the prologue, he finds an unusual uniqueness in their common lives and traits. Chaucer's characters represent an extremely broad cross-section of all parts of society, except for the nobility. His stories represented the people themselves and touched on all of the social classes that existed.

Chaucer treats all of the subjects as love, humor and death in poetry. In the romantic story of «The Knight's Tale,” one can notice that the Knight fits loosely into the aristocrats, also known as the upper class. In the story, the Knight’s character reflects on the conclusion, with courage, skill in battle, respect for one's lord, love for a fair lady, all the marks of chivalry, which are the ultimate experiences to which a nobleman should hope for. The Knight is established as an admirable but very static character. His story tells that People are always changeable, and they always love a winner. As the tales develop Chaucer creates more dynamic characters, which express themselves in «human» fashion.

“The Miller's Tale” is more than just an entertaining story. It contains a moral to the story but is played off within the comical tale. The Miller is fairly rude and vulgar, however amusing at the same time. His story reflects his personality with his rough and immoral jokes. When the Miller speaks, it is generally bawdy or weird, making his story even more interesting to listen to. In the Shipman’s Tale, The Cook’s Tale, and The

Miller’s Tale, each story is told at the expense of a lower class, tradesperson or an outcast from an upper class, educated point of view.

The Wife of Bath begins her Prologue to her tale by establishing her authority on marriage. She has been married five times, beginning at the age of twelve. Although she is always criticized, the Wife of Bath is one of Chaucer’s most interesting characters. Her prologue resembles that of an autobiography and tells her views on life and marriage. She uses her authority through experience and justifies her actions by having done them.

The Wife of Bath's tale compliments her prologue, because it supports the theme of dominance of men by women - what she strove for with all her husbands. Unlike the other storytellers, she does not represent a social class, however she represents all the women in the middle Ages, and power over husbands.

“The Pardoner’s Tale” represents the class of clergymen. The Pardoner is a man who works for the church and relieves people from their sins. He carries scrolls that are supposedly written by the Pope and sells them t people that have committed immoral acts. Although the Pardoner knows he himself is committing immoral acts, he has no intent to change himself. His story shows the corruption of the church and how the clergymen were situated in the middle ages. In the end, the Pardoner still tries to make a sale.

Throughout “Canterbury Tales,” each of the characters fits into a certain type or class of person; the Knight being a noble upperclassman, the Miller being a peasanttradesman, the Wife of Bath representing the womenmiddle class, and the Pardoner portraying the Clergyman. Chaucer expresses corruption, immorality, honesty, comedy and love. He is also able to incorporate the values as well as the characterization of the belief systems and the existing society into the action of the Tales. In each of the prologues, Chaucer is able to make sure that each tale is presented in the manner and style of the character that is telling the story which also reflected his life.




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