Journal Entry for The Canterbury Tales  
by Geoffrey Chaucer

pictures from The Ellesmere Manuscript

The Pilgrims

1. THE KNIGHT

    knight

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    The Knight's Tale: A romance set in Greece. Explores a question of love as to which of two young men of equal worth, with nearly equal claims, should win the young lady (Emelye). Reflective of Knight’s social caste, lingers on battle scenes rather than love scenes. Major characters: Palamon and Arcite, the young men; Emelye; Theseus and Yppolita, king and queen.

2. THE SQUIRE

    squire

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    The Squire's Tale: A romance set in Cambyuskan. Lovers are metamorphosed into birds. Typical, but fresh, metrical romance. Reflects Squire’s youth. Interrupted by Franklin and left unfinished. Major characters: King of Cambyuskan; Elpheta, his wife; their children; Algarsyf, Cabaio and Canacee; a knight; a falcon.

3. THE YEOMAN
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Tale: None.

4. THE PRIORESS: Madame Eglantyne

    prioress

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    The Prioress's Tale: A miracle of the Virgin. A young boy, "the litel clergeoun," is murdered by Jews and subsequently brought back to life by the intercession of the Virgin. Pathos is excessive, dwelling on suffering. Reflects Prioress’s sentimentality and inability to give justice or mercy. Major characters: a widow; her two sons – "the litel clergeoun" and older brother; a Jewry, provost, abbot, Virgin Mary.

5. THE SECOND NUN

    Nun

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    The Second Nun's Tale: A Christian legend, the life and martyrdom of St. Cecilia, a young Roman matron who converts her husband and his brother to Christianity. All three subsequently suffer martyr’s deaths.

6. THE NUN'S PRIEST

nun's priest

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    The Nun's Priest's Tale and Epilogue:

     

     

     

    Your evaluation of The Nun's Priest's Tale:

     

     

7. THE MONK

    monk

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    The Monk's Tale: A series of medieval tragedies, stories about the fall of men from high estate. Knight stops him after 15. Pedantic. Reflects monk’s desire to preserve dignity in his office from Host’s onslaught.

8. THE FRIAR: Huberd

friar

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    The Friar's Tale: A fabliau told at the expense of the Summoner. A corrupt Summoner is tricked by a devil and an old widow. Reflects hostility between the two. Major characters: archdeacon, summoner, man-in-green (a devil), carterer, a widow.

9. THE MERCHANT
merchant

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    The Merchant's Tale: A fabliau, the "Pear-Tree Episode." An old man marries a young wife and is cuckolded. Part of the "Marriage Group" – a very funny, but bitter condemnation of marriage. Reflects Merchant’s own cuckolded state. Major characters: January, the old merchant; May, his young wife; Damyan, her lover; Pluto and Proserpina.

10. THE CLERK

clerk

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    The Clerk's Tale: A folk-tale, that tells the story of Griselda, a patient and long-suffering wife. Part of the "Marriage Group" – the Clerk’s answer to the Wife’s Prologue and Tale. Reflects his traditional, ecclesiastic view of marriage in which the wife is to the husband, as the husband is to God (see St. Paul). Major characters: Walter, a lord; Griselda, his wife; her father, Janicula; daughter and son of Walter and Griselda.

11. THE MAN OF LAW

lawyer

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    The Man of Law’s Tale: A folk-tale of the type called "The Calumniated Wife" who is an incarnation of Fortitude. Little or no reflection on Man of Law’s character. Major characters: Constance, daughter of Emperor of Rome; her husbands, the Sultan of Syria and the King of Northumbria; the sultan’s mother, etc.

12. The Franklin

franklin

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           The Franklin's Tale: A Breton lai that is Chaucer's most benevolent view of a marriage based  upon mutual trust, honesty, shared faith and egalitarian responsibility.  Reflects the Franklin's generosity and his concern with gentilesse.  Major characters: Dorigen, Arveragus, Aurelius and a magician. 

13-17. The Five Guildsmen: The Haberdasher, Carpenter, Weaver, Dyer, and Tapestry Maker

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        Tales: None.

 

18. The Cook

cook

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The Cook's Tale: A fragment of a fabliau. Indeterminate plot. Major characters: Perkyn Revelour, his master, a friend and his wife.

19. THE SHIPMAN

shipman

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The Shipman's Tale: A fabliau about a merchant doubly cheated by a monk, first, of his wife’s favours, and second, of his money. Probably not meant for shipman in original plan. Major characters: Peter, a merchant; his wife; daun John, a monk; little girl.

20. THE DOCTOR OF PHYSICK (The Physician)

physician

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The Physician's Tale: A moral tale about a corrupt Roman judge who lusts after a young girl. In order to violate her, he brings a trumped-up charge against her. Her father kills her in order to preserve her chastity. Major characters: Virginia; her father, Virginius; the false judge, Appius; his conspirator, Claudius.

21. THE WIFE OF BATH: Dame Alice

Wife of Bath

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         The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale:

 

 

 

Your evaluation of The Wife of Bath's Tale:

 

 

 

22. THE PARSON

parson

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The Parson's Tale: A sermon on Penitence, within which is embedded a long treatise on the Seven Deadly Sins.

23. THE PLOWMAN

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Tale: None.

24. THE MILLER

miller

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The Miller's Prologue and Tale:

 

 

 

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25. THE MANCIPLE

manciple

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The Manciple's Tale: An ancient why-tale of the theme of the "Tell-Tale Bird," the subject of one of the stories in The Romance of the Seven Sages: "Why crows are black." No particular connection to Manciple. Major characters: Phebus; his wife, Coronis; her lover; a white talking crow.

26. THE REEVE: Osewold

reeve

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The Reeve's Tale: A fabliau with a miller as the butt of the cuckoldry. Both his wife and daughter lie with clerks. Reflects the animosity between the Reeve and the Miller. Told in reply to the Miller’s Tale. Major characters: Symkyn, a miller; his wife; their daughter, Malyne, a baby boy; John and Aleyn, two scholars.

27. THE SUMMONER

summoner

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The Summoner's Tale: A fabliau told at the expense of the friar. A description of the methods of a begging friar. Reflects animosity between the Summoner and the Friar. Major characters: Frere John; his servant; Thomas, a sick man; his wife; a lord and lady; Jankyn, the lord’s squire.

28. THE PARDONER

pardoner

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The Pardoner's Introduction, Prologue and Tale:

  

 

 

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29-30. THE CANON AND HIS YEOMAN

canon's yeoman

A Yeoman followed by his master, the Canon, overtake the company of Pilgrims in order to join them. Before the Canon arrives, however, the Yeoman reveals that his master is an alchemist and a trickster. When the Canon realizes his rascality has been revealed, he abruptly leaves the company.

 

 

 

 

The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale: In the first part the Yeoman tells of his life with his master. In the second, he tells of the tricks of a London canon/alchemist, whom he claims to be a different person. Major characters: a Canon/alchemist and his dupe, a priest.

  1. Geoffrey: THE NARRATOR

Geoffrey

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    Geoffrey's Tales: "Sir Thopas": a two-fold satire, literary and social, a burlesque of a metrical romance. Chaucer exposes the clichés and absurdities of popular romance, as Geoffrey recites his tale. He also pokes fun at Flemish knighthood in the guise of Sir Thopas who determines to fall in love with an elf-queen, and fights a giant, Sir Olifaunt. The tale is interrupted and halted by the Host who declares it to be lewd and made of "rym dogeral." Geoffrey then goes on to tell, at interminable length: "The Tale of Melibee": a moral allegory in prose. Dull, perhaps to modern audiences, but appreciated by the Canterbury Pilgrims and by Chaucer’s audience. Major characters: Melibeus; his wife, Prudentia; their daughter, Sophie; war-mongering neighbors; etc.

     

  1. The Host, Harry Bailey
the host

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Chaucer's Pilgrims by William Blake

William Blake, Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims, 1810

heron

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