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Canterbury Tales

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The Canterbury Tales


Author: Geoffrey Chaucer




Chaucer the Author: He is gently satiric, tolerant of humanity’s flaws, an acute observer of people


Chaucer the pilgrim: not the best observer, kind of nave at times, excited to be on the trip


Knight: the highest up in the hierarchy, ideal knight, quintessence of chivalry, fought in many battles, comes straight to the pilgrimage from battle to be purified, is humble, courteous, and sincere to all. Does not lord his position over everyone and he is sensible and serious


Squire: the knight’s son, a strong contrast, handsome, curled hair, is always after the ladies, he wears an elaborate embroidered outfit. He has seen some battles and proven courageous. He plays the flute and sings a lot. He does not sleep much for he is romancing the ladies. He is a dutiful son, but still young


Yeoman: the knight’s servant, the only one, wear’s the dress of his class


Prioress: Madame Eglentine, not quite what she seems. She is a nice lady but not perfectly religious. She is the head of an abbey. She is all woman, physical description makes her attractive. Sounds like the heroine of a romance. Has elegant table manners, she is fond of little dogs and has them on the pilgrimage, though at the time prioresses were not to have pets or go on pilgrimages. She acts like an aristocrat. Her forehead is showing which is another no-no. she has a broach that says love conquers all. She does not really comprehend her duties. She has an entourage of nuns and priests.


The monk: an outrider, always on a horse, violates rules of his order by hunting. He has fur on him, dresses extravagantly, and likes fine horses. He believes the rules of the order are old-fashioned. He serves the world more than God


The Friar: he is supposed to beg for the poor. Very nasty man. He overturns the moral standards of his position. He is wanton. Avoids the sick and poor unless he can fleece them for money. Is friends with wealthy land owners. He is a womanizer, he collects money and gives out easy penances for sinners. He is interfering with work of priests by selling absolution. It is suggested he bought husbands for wives he seduced


Merchant: lending money out at exorbitant costs, trafficking illegally, not doing what he should have been doing. Tries to keep his own debts quiet 


Clerk of Oxford: poor and underfed. Unworldly. Studies philosophy. He would rather have books then riches. He keeps borrowing money to buy books. He is a leach living off of other people.


Sergeant of Law: always busy, a lawyer, knows legal precedence, uses knowledge to gain riches for himself


Franklin: wealthy landowner, middle-class and respectable, loves his pleasure. Sanguine (blood) running through body


5 Guildsman:  craftsman, artisans, equivalent of city council. Seem good enough to be aldermen. Have their wives with them who are proud of their positions.


Cook: running sore on shin. Outstanding in the kitchen. Perpetually drunk


Shipman: the skipper, is he pirate? Appears to steal wine, a rogue, makes his prisoners walk the plank


Physician: grounded in astrology, has real all medical authorities. Knowledgeable, suggestion that he has a relation with apothecary (druggist), fond of gold, well off, a miser


Wife of Bath: been married five times in church, most complicated, mix of secular and spiritual. Between  husbands, the last one died recently. Likes power and security. Very sensual and humorous. She is deaf in one ear. Has been on many pilgrimages, brash and loud, dresses very flamboyant. Genuinely religious, she may not agree with everything, but she believes. She is proud of her position. She is a weaver. Gap toothed, which was a mark of sensuality


Village parson: poor parish priest, most spiritually healthy. Sheppard to his flock. Teaches by example. Extremely charitable. Treats sinners with compassion.


The Plowman: parson’s brother, humble laborer. Also a model of piety.


The Miller: strong as an ox, can breakdown a door with his head. Wart on his nose, red hair coming out of it. Violent and lustful, he is dishonest. He cheats his customers and has lots of dirty stories to tell. Perpetually drunk.


The Manciple: buys supplies for lawyers, and he cheats the lawyers


Reeve: manages land for absentee landlord. He cheats the landlord, lends landlord his own money and charges him interest.


Summoner: face marked with leprosy and venereal disease. He gives summons to ecclesiastical court. Lecherous, takes bribes, sometimes in sexual favors. Believes soul of man resides in his purse. Even pilgrim is shocked by him


Pardoner: worse then all of them. Would sell pardons, time off from purgatory. He’s a fake, makes up his own pardons instead of from the pope. He collects pig bones and passes them off as saint’s bones. He sells salvation and he is not saved himself. Can’t save his own soul. He is losing his soul. Profits from the sale of fake relics. Called a unich  (no testicles), ugly, with strange hair. His physical ugliness reflects his ugly soul. He is a great speaker though so he is successful.

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