Topic- ‘Representationof 14th
century Englandin thePrologue
toThe Canterbury tales.’
Name-Piyush kr. Banerjee
M.A (English) sem.1
Paper-Medieval to17th century poetry.
Teacher- Amrita ma’m
PROLOGUE TO THE CANTERBURY
BY GEOFFREY CHAUCER
OF 14TH CENTURY
ENGLAND IN THE
PROLOGUE TO THE CANTERBURY
Was written by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) in between 1387 and 1400.
Considered one of the greatest works of the English language.
The Prologue alone places Chaucer in the category of Shakespeare and Milton.
He, along with 29 other pilgrims are going to visit the shrine of Thomas a
'Becket in Canterbury.
They are all gathered at the Tabard Inn, where Chaucer meets the other 29
pilgrims and tells us about them in the Prologue.
The work remained incomplete as Chaucer could not complete writing the no.
Of stories he originally planned to.
PROLOGUE - PORTRAIT GALLERY OF
14TH CENTURY ENGLAND
His Prologue is a real picture gallery in which thirty portraits are hanging on the
wall with all of their details and peculiarities.
The pilgrims generally fall into three major divisions of the Medieval society-
The feudal class
The Knight and his Squire
The Nun and the Monk
The Merchant or the professional class
The Miller and the Doctor
Nevil Coghill writes about the Prologue–
“ It is a precise portrait of an entire nation, high and low, old and young,
male and female, learned and ignorant, rogue and righteous...”
Chaucer, in his Prologue, has introduced the characters which form the
part of the medieval society and represent various aspects of the society.
John Dryden said-
“[Chaucer] has taken into the compass of his Canterbury Tales,
the various manners and humors of the whole English nation in his age. Not
a single character has escaped him. All his pilgrims are severally
distinguished from each other.....”
Chaucer’s religious views are expressed through the characters of the
Prioress, the Monk and the Parson.
The characters in Chaucer’s Prologue are for all ages and for all lands.
CHAUCER’S ART OF
CHARACTERISATIONTim Brink wrote:
“We receive such an exact
idea of the men he (Chaucer) is
describing that we can almost see
them bodily before our eyes”
Chaucer is the first great painter of character in English literature.
The thirty portraits traced by Chaucer give us an excellent idea of the society at
The different pilgrims represent different professionals.
Chaucer has encompassed every aspect of the society through his characters
which has the Knight, as well as the poor Parson, the Prioress, as well as the
Sergeant of law.
Thus, the characters in The Canterbury Tales are types as well as individual.
The Prologue is a very precious
historical document for someone who
wishes to have a glimpse of the life of that time.
Chaucer uses the technique of contrast in drawing the portraits of
We have the paragon of virtue in the Parson and the Ploughman and
monsters of vice in the Reeve, the Miller and the Summoner.
Chaucer presents a very positive picture of the ruling class.
His religious ideal is seen through the character of the Parson.
Chaucer has been called an
outstanding representative poet
of his age because of the typical
element in his characterization.
“The Canterbury Tales” can
help many students
and people everywhere learn more
about the life in the Middle Ages.