In June 1170, Roger de Pont L'Évêque, the archbishop of York, along with Gilbert Foliot, the bishop of London, and Josceline de Bohon, the bishop of Salisbury, crowned Henry the Young King at York. This was a breach of Canterbury's privilege of coronation, and in November 1170 Becket excommunicated all three. While the three clergymen fled to the king in Normandy, Becket continued to excommunicate his opponents in the church, the news of which also reached Henry.A Seal of the Abbot of Arbroath, showing the murder of Becket. Arbroath Abbey was founded 8 years after the death of St Thomas and dedicated to him; it became the wealthiest abbey in Scotland.Upon hearing reports of Becket's actions, Henry is said to have uttered words that were interpreted by his men as wishing Becket killed. The king's exact words are in doubt and several versions have been reported. The most commonly quoted, as handed down by "oral tradition", is "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?", but according to historian Simon Schama this is incorrect: he accepts the account of the contemporary biographer Edward Grim, writing in Latin, who gives us "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?" Many variations have found their way into popular culture.
•French did not become either the official or unofficial language of
•William was not combining the lands of Normandy and England, and
had no wish to replace language or culture.
•Latin and English were used for most documents and formal
proclamations by William, and the English legal system was
renewed, not replaced.
•Nevertheless, the upper class was almost completely taken over by
(French speaking) Normans, and although the system was
English, many of the legal proceedings and documents were in French.
• law of the land
• upper nobility class maintained control over the lower classes
• rigid structure of government consisted of kings, nobles
(barons), and the peasants (serfs)
• leaders of the church and neighboring nobles held sway
• king needed a way to maintain control over his lands, even if
• barons were given a large portion of the king's land, known
as fiefs or manors. In turn, they had to pay "homage and
fealty" to the king
• gave their support to the king at all times, governing the land
that was given them, and being ready to provide troops and fight
for the king when the need arose
• Murdered in 1170 (Assassinated by followers of
the King Henry in Canterbury Cathedral)
• Was canonized as both Saint and martyr following
• The Shrine of Saint Thomas of Beckett became a
popular destination for religious pilgrimages
during the Middle Ages
• 1348 – Black Plague reached England and wiped out 1/3
of the population (2.25 million to 3.75 million)
• The sudden collapse of the population sent prices
skyrocketing by increasing the price of labor while
decreasing the price of land
• The overall effect of the Plague was to hasten the
collapse of feudalism by creating intense competition for
labor and tenants
Illustration of the Black Death from the Toggenburg Bible (1411)
Son of London vintner (winemaker)
Served in the royal household (page to 2nd son of Edward
III) and later held a series of administrative posts under
Edward and Richard II.
Visited France and Italy on behalf of the crown during the
1360's and 1370‘s.
Chaucer's career illustrates the economic, political, and
social ferment of late 14th century England (landed wealth
versus moneyed wealth).
Well-travelled on diplomatic missions for the king
Read English, Latin, Italian, and French
Recall some things you read from our textbook
Planned: 120 tales
Completed: 22 tales and 2 fragments
Pilgrimage was a “framing device” for tales;
tales also have “thematic unity”.
The pilgrims share stories to pass the time;
these stories described the very different
points-of-view and beliefs and practices of
the people of Chaucer’s age.
Those Who Work (Peasants & Middle Class)
Merchants, Laborers, Farmers, Governme
nt officials, etc.
Those Who Pray (Clergy)
Priests, Monks, Nuns, Friars, Pardoners
Those Who Fight (Nobility)
Knights, Squires, Mercenaries, Princes, D
Pilgrimages began as exercises in penance
(attempt to earn forgiveness)
Roads were poorly maintained. Thieves hid in
wait for lone travelers, so most people traveled
as “pilgrims” in a large group.
Later on, travel improved, but getting to far-
off spots (e.g. Jerusalem) was never easy or
“Professional” pilgrims returned with
relics, badges, pilgrim symbols, tall tales
(some of these were falsified).
Frame Story: a story that holds together several
other stories; usually, characters in the frame story
tell stories of their own.
e.g. each of the characters in The Canterbury
Tales tells their own story, which has a
new, unique cast of characters.
The Canterbury Tales is the story of a group of
pilgrims who tell stories as they travel to
Canterbury; each pilgrim’s story stands alone as
its own story, but fits within the overall story of
Indirect Characterization occurs when an
author tells what a character does, says, or
looks like, or describes how other characters
react to him or her.
The reader must use their judgment to decide
what the character is like.
What can you infer about this character:
Bill straightened his starched suit and slicked back
his hair; he nudged his toothbrush to line up parallel
with his toothpaste before he looked at himself in the
mirror, then smiled with satisfaction.
Chaucer uses these types of indirect
characterization (and others):
“This yeoman wore a coat and hood of
green, And peacock-feathered
arrows, bright and keen” (Appearance)
Her greatest oath was only “By St. Loy!”
“And gladly would he learn, and gladly
Direct characterization occurs when the
author states a character’s traits—
virtuous, vain, clever, etc.
e.g. Bill was vain and self-centered.
Chaucer also uses direct
characterization, especially on his minor
There was a Friar, a wanton one and
A Limiter, a very festive fellow.
• irony: incongruity between what might be
expected and what actually occurs.
• coincidence is not irony, though the two
• verbal irony: The contrast between what is
said and what is actually meant.
• the surface meaning and the underlying
meaning of what is said is not the same.
• Chaucer provides some details that
contradict what the characters think of
themselves. This is a form of satire:
• witty language convey insult/scorn
• ridicules its subject (for
example, individuals, organizations, or
states) often as an intended means of
provoking or preventing change
1. Accurate depiction of life in the
middle ages (class levels, interactions
between the classes)
2. First story about lower classes (mix of
3. Satire & humor for social / political /
4. “The Canterbury Tales” point out
problems within society.
social rank, moral & spiritual condition
Include many of the following
Physiognomy – physical features (esp. facial)
Some tales are serious, others are comical.
Each is an accurate description of a set of
traits, beliefs, and faults.
Chaucer criticized the malpractice of the
clergy, and poked fun at those from the 3
estates. (nobility, clergy, commoner)
Many of the tales shared similar themes;
some tales are told in response to a previous
tale (e.g. a story about the joy of immorality
is followed by a story about the punishment
•As you read the Prologue, pay close
attention to any details that help give you an
immediate impression of a character.
The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales
Reading Skills: Analyzing Style: Key Details
• Pay attention to direct and indirect
characterization for the characters
Chaucer, but don’t
Chaucer” with “author
Narrator is acting as a
reporter of what others
Pretends to be unaware
of irony or satire.
The Wife of Bath is one of three
women on the trip.
“She was a worthy woman all her
life”, the narrator says, then
mentions her 5 husbands. This is
an example of ______.
She is a business woman with a
strong sense of self-
importance, her elaborate dress is
a sign of her character as well as
note that she is probably in her
forties and is married to a man
in his twenties
The Summoner and the
Pardoner are the most unlikeable
figures; one administers the church
courts, the other sells pardons
The Pardoner is a church official
who sells fake relics
What impression of him do you
get from this knowledge?
The Summoner is suffering from
some kind of skin disease.
What might this tell us about
The Knight & the Squire
especially their dress and their resume
well-fed and jolly, but something about him is
the peacock-feathered arrows
their opinion of their own worth
their clothing & accessories
The Prioress (Nun)
her physical description, education, manners
qualities the narrator seems to admire
how he is different from the other clergy