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General Prologue
GENRE: The "estates" were the divisions of society (nobility, clergy, and commoners), "those who protect all," "those who pray for all," and "those who feed all." SUMMARY: he narrator explains his presence at the Tabard Inn outside London where he waits to begin pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket in gratitude for aid during sickness. He then introduces the Pilgrims in clusters and describes their "condicioun" or moral/emotional nature, "whiche they weren" by occupation, "of what degree" or estate of nobility or villainy, and "in what array that they were inne,"
Knight's Tale
Genre: Chivalric Romance: Characters: The mythic hero, Theseus, the duke of Athens, his queen, Ypolyta, her sister, Emelye, and the cousins (and sworn brothers) Palamon and Arcite of Thebes.
Theseus, who can conquer the Amazons and Thebans, can't conquer Fate. Palamon and Arcite, who fight for love, kill first their friendship and then one dies. Emelye, the shy ingenue, prays for chastity but winds up with the winner.
Miller's Tale (found in a Reeve's tale)
Genre: A fabliau, a short, salacious tale about bourgeois (town-dwelling) non-aristocratic characters. Summary: The Reeve, incensed at Robyn the Pilgrim Miller, has his knickers in a knot over the bad treatment of the carpenter who was cuckolded by a clerk in MT. (The Reeve, we know, was first a carpenter before being promoted to oversee the estate [GP ll. 613-14].) He gets his revenge by telling a tale about a miller cuckolded by two clerks (after a fashion). The clerks of Cambridge come in for their own share of the satire accorded "Hende Nicholas" of Oxford, being depicted as proud but naive Northumberland boys whose studies give them no defense against the worldly miller's crude deception. The miller's pseudo-aristocratic pride, founded on the worship of the notion of his wife's high status due to her descent from a parish priest, also offends the church, as well as clerks, wives and women in general, and perhaps even manciples.
Reeve's Tale
In Trumpington, near Cambridge, dwells Symkin, a proud, thieving Miller. He has a wife, the daughter of the parish priest, an ugly daughter, Malyne, and an infant child. Two students, Aleyn and John, bring the college's wheat to be ground into flour, determined to outwit the thieving miller. Aleyn watches the grain pouring in the hopper, John watches it coming out. The Miller lets their horse run off into the fens; John and Aleyn run after it, and the Miller steals some of their grain.
They finally catch the horse and ask the Miller to put them up for the night. All must sleep in the one room of the house -- John and Aleyn in one bed, the daughter in another, and the Miller and his wife in yet another, with the baby's cradle at its foot. Aleyn determines to have recompense for the lost grain, and he gets in bed with the daughter. John, not to be outdone, moves the cradle to the bottom of the bed in which he lies. When the wife gets up in the night to go to the privy, she feels about for the cradle, finds it, and gets in bed with John. In the early morning Aleyn returns to his own bed but, finding the cradle, goes instead to the Miller's bed. The Miller awakes, a fight ensues, and the Miller is beaten badly.
Characters: The riotous apprentice, Perkyn Revelour, his master, who wises up rather late in the game, various members of Perkyn's "meynee" or pseudo-aristocratic band of followers, his "peer," another apprentice who has lost his place, and his "peer"'s wife, the only openly identified prostitute in the Chaucerian canon. (It's not like they didn't exist, but Chaucer's reluctance to populate even his lowest tales with them suggests something about the audience he was addressing.)

Summary: Perkyn parties hard, is fired after looting his master's cash box for years, shacks up with his buddy and his buddy's wife, who is a prostitute, and . . . we don't know.
Wife of Bathe
Alisoun, the Wife of Bath, has been married five times and is ready for another husband: Christ never specified how many times a woman should marry. Virginity is fine but wives are not condemned; the Apostle said that my husband would be my debtor, and I have power over his body. Three of my husbands were good and two bad. The first three were old and rich and I picked them clean. One of my old husbands, emboldened with drink, would come home and preach against women; but I got the better of him. My fourth husband was young and he had a mistress. I pretended to be unfaithful and made him burn in his own grease. I already had my eye on young Jankin, pall-bearer for my fourth, and he became my fifth and favorite husband. He beat me. Once when he was reading aloud from his Book of Wicked Wives, I tore a page from his book, and he knocked me down (so hard I am still deaf from it). I pretended to be dying, and when he leaned over to ask forgiveness, I knocked him into the fireplace. We made up, and he gave me full sovereignty in marriage; thereafter I was kind and faithful, and we lived in bliss.
Who was Thomas Beckett
Friendly with Henry II, he was appointed Archbishop of Caterbury; Henry II hoped it would help the King gain more authority re: the Church-- but this backfired. Church, not King, could deal with bad clergy. Beckett maintained, King complained, and Becket was (unintentionally) slained.
What is Canterbury
a town in Kent in southeastern England; site of the cathedral where Thomas a Becket was martyred in 1170; seat of the archbishop and primate of the Anglican Church
* unashamedly sells indulgences and relics; performance artist
* ambiguous sexuality: "I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare" (693)
* strange relationship to the Summoner (675)
* key lines: 710-16
What is a friar
The word friar is to be carefully distinguished in its application from the word monk. For the monk retirement and solitude are undisturbed by the public ministry, unless under exceptional circumstances. His vow of poverty binds him strictly as an individual but in no way affects the right of tenure of his order. In the life of the friar, on the contrary, the exercise of the sacred ministry is an essential feature, for which the life of the cloister is considered as but an immediate preparation. His vow of poverty, too, not only binds him as an individual to the exercise of that virtue, but, originally at least, precluded also the right of tenure in common with his brethren. Thus originally the various orders of friars could possess no fixed revenues and lived upon the voluntary offerings of the faithful. Hence their name of mendicants. They had a bad reputation because they often had their hands on money (tithes) and, at times, it was believed it was grafted
Friar's tale
The "Friar's Prologue" shows us yet another quarrel among members of an estate, in this case the minor clergy and their servants. Friars and summoners both circulated freely among the folk, and therefore they had plenty of opportunity of becoming "rusted" (or "shitten") as the Pilgrim-Parson would say (I.500, 504). Because the friars collected tithes and the summoners were arresting people who might expect to be fined, both routinely had their hands on more money than the average medieval churchman, and (surprise!) some of it stuck there. In Yorkshire, at Holdernesse, a friar making his rounds, begging from householders, calls upon old Thomas, who is very ill. The wife tells him Thomas is grouchy, and the friar preaches a sermon on the evils of anger. Then he presses Thomas for a rich gift; Thomas says he has already given all he can, but the friar persists. Finally Thomas says he will give him something only if he swears to divide it equally among the members of his convent. The friar swears to do so. Thomas tells him the treasure is by his backside; the friar reaches down and Thomas lets a fart in his hand.

The friar is so angry he cannot speak; he goes to the lord of the manor to complain, though the lord is more fascinated by the intellectual problem of dividing an indivisible. The lord's squire provides the solution: each of the twelve members of the friar's convent is to lay his nose at the end of a spoke on a wheel, with the friar seated in the middle; when he breaks wind, the fart will drift equally to each of the waiting noses. Friar: utter violation of his vows, but a great guy to be with

* supposed to be poor and chaste, but is "wanton and merry" (208)
* associates with local women and taverners
* monetary religion for profit
The Merchant's tale
After the Merchant bewails the horrible marriage he's made only two months ago, the Host urges him to tell a tale sharing his wisdom about this side of marriage. He begins with January, who thinks he wants a wife, but then the Merchant launches into a sermon against marriage, quoting standard classical and biblical examples common to the anti-feminist
The Parson's Tale
he Parson's brother, the Plowman (see General Prologue) would have been affected by the 1349 Ordinance of Laborers and the 1351 Statute of Laborers, designed to regulate wages and labor after the first wave of the Black Death in 1348. curate: a person authorized to conduct religious worship. Everything the others (summoner, friar, monk) is not. Lollar*-- heretical movement, against such things as tithes.
Monk's tale
A sermon built like a penitential handbook, listing sins and the appropriate penance to heal them. The Monk breaks all his priestly vows: a. Poverty

b. Obedience to the Rule ("Regula")

c. Stability: he doesn't remain cloistered

c. Chastity: priketh, venerie, love knot
Class structure in Canterbury Tales
C. Class Structure


* Knight and his entourage : highest ranking layman; ideal Squire: romance hero
* Yeoman: hardworking, in tune with the earth
* Prioress: coy; unconsciously pretentious
* Second Nun and entourage: remain undeveloped
* Monk: highest cleric
* Friar : "lik a maister or a pope" (l. 263)

Middle Class

* Merchant Clerk Ideal?
* Sergeant of Law
* Franklin
* Guildsmen Belong to common craft guild
* Cook
* Shipman
* Physician
* Wife of Bath

Lower Class and Ruffians

* Parson: Humble origins; ideal
* Plowman: Ideal
* Miller: Scoundrels all
* Manciple
* Reeve
* Summoner & Pardoner: Clerical figures, but depraved
* Narrator: Chaucerian persona
* Host/Harry Bailey: Owns Tabard, governing force
Franklin's tale
Franklin: in company of Man of Law (landholder w/ land speculator)

* member of landed gentry; acquired land
* Santa Claus figure
* gastronomic vocabulary: his farm is set up so that he can eat well
* key lines: 338-42
Guildsmen: four clothworkers and a carpenter

* members of parish guilds, "livery"
* seeking social and economic advancement; wives' motives revealed
* key lines: 365-66
* expert seaman; knows all the harbors, ports, tides, and currents of the entire Mediterranean basin
* thievery, piracy, mass murder
* key line: 400
What is a lollard
Opposed to the great wealth of the church, Lollards taught that the clergy should be poor, that believers could interpret the Bible for themselves, that the doctrine of transubstantiation was false, and that clerical and monastic celibacy was unnatural. Relates to parson's tale
* rides with Pardoner
* hideous appearance and corrosive treatments match his unashamed abuses of his position
* debased morality: uses his office for profit and sexual exploitation
* key lines: 626-30 (children afraid)

Deck Info