CliffsNotes, The Canterbury Tales

CliffsNotes, The Canterbury Tales

CliffsNotes, The Canterbury Tales

CliffsNotes, The Canterbury Tales

Synopsis

The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background. The latest generation of titles in this series also features glossaries and visual elements that complement the classic, familiar format.

Join Chaucer's band of pilgrims on their journey in CliffsNotes on The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's narrators represent a wide spectrum of society with various ranks and occupations. From the distinguished and noble Knight, to the pious abbess, the honorable Clerk, the rich landowner, the worldly and crude Wife, and on down the scale to the low, vulgar Miller and Carpenter, and the corrupt Pardoner.

Let this study guide reveal Chaucer's genius at understanding basic human nature as reflected in his tales. You'll also gain insight into the background and influences of the author. Other features that help you study include

Character analyses of major playersA character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the charactersCritical essaysA review section that tests your knowledgeA Resource Center full of books, articles, films, and Internet sites

Classic literature or modern modern-day treasure -- you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.

Excerpt

One spring day, the Narrator of The Canterbury Tales rents a room at the Tabard Inn before he recommences his journey to Canterbury. That evening, a group of people arrive at the inn, all of whom are also going to Canterbury to receive the blessings of “the holy blissful martyr,” St. Thomas à Becket. Calling themselves “pilgrims” because of their destination, they accept the Narrator into their company. The Narrator describes his newfound traveling companions.

The Host at the inn, Harry Bailey, suggests that, to make the trip to Canterbury pass more pleasantly, each member of the party tell two tales on the journey to Canterbury and two more tales on the journey back. The person who tells the best story will be rewarded with a sumptuous dinner paid for by the other members of the party. The Host decides to accompany the pilgrims to Canterbury and serve as the judge of the tales.

Commentary

The primary function of these opening lines is to provide a physical setting and the motivation for the Canterbury pilgrimage. Chaucer’s original plan, to have each pilgrim tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two more on the way back, was never completed; we have tales only on the way to Canterbury. In The Prologue are portraits of all levels of English life. The order of the portraits is important because it provides a clue as to the social standing of the different occupations. The pilgrims presented first are representative of the highest social rank, with social rank descending with every new pilgrim introduced.

Highest in the social rank are representatives of the aristocracy or those with pretensions toward nobility. First in this group are the Knight and his household, including the Squire. The second group within those of the highest social standing includes the Prioress, the Monk, and the Friar, who ought to be of the lower class, but who, as a pious beggar, has begged so well that his prosperity ironically slips him into the company of the nobles. Of these pilgrims, probably only the Knight and his son, the Squire, qualify as true aristocrats, both outwardly and . . .

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