The Social Structure Of Canterbury Tales Essay
, Research Paper
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
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
?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 peasant/tradesman, the Wife of Bath representing the women/middle 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.