CBSE/ UGC NET june 2017 English: Chaucer and Canterbury TalesPrologue to Canterbury tales : Easy capsules for quick learning Part I

Chaucer and Canterbury TalesPrologue to Canterbury tales : Easy capsules for quick learning Part I
Popularly popularly known as the father of English literature and Morning star of the Renaissance ,he
is widely considered the greatest poet of the middle ages . Inorder to read Chaucer one should have in mind a picture  of the “middle ages”too. The middle ages or “the dark ages” spans from 5 th century to 15th century. It began with the fall of Western Roman empire accompanied by population decline, counter urbanisation, invasions, movement of people, migration of Germanic people, formation of new Kingdoms, rediscovery of the code of Justinian , formation of monasteries, the crusades ,predominance of scholasticism leading to the founding of universities  , theology of Thomas Acquinas, poetry of Dante , Gothic architecture and calamities like black death and plague etc.Modern perception of the “middle ages” is an age of ignorance and superstition.

Chaucer and Canterbury Tales
  • the age of  Chaucer roughly covers 14th century
  • hundred years war was fought between 1346 to 1356
  • Canterbury Tales
  • chaucer's most celebrated yet, Unfinished work
  • The work extents to 17000 lines
  • Rhyming couplet the predominant form

General prologue

  • 29 pilgrims meet at Tabard Inn, Southwark
  • Harry Bailey is the host

professor AC ward called him "a member of the Parliament"

  • The host proposes that the pilgrims should tell 4 stories
  • The work is incomplete
  • Only 23 pilgrims tell stories
  • chaucer as a pilgrim tells two stories
  • Chaucer portrays 30 pilgrims including the host

The Knight

  • He loves chivalry truth honour generosity and courtesy
  • he participated in numerous battles for defending Christian faith against heathens.
  • He is very polite and careful in speech .
  • he fought 15 mortal Battles he was there in Alexandria, pruce  Granada, Algeria etc.


  • He was the son of that Knight a man about twenty
  • he won  battles for winning the love  of his lady
  • Like his father he too is an epitome of mediaeval chivalry

the prioress-

the most delicate and humorous passage in the prologue is about her.
“she let no morsel from the lips fall”

The Monk

“ a manly man to be an abbot able”
he was very modern in his outlook
yet he was not wicked
he wore a lover’s knot
he ignored the laws of  St Maire and St Benet
he was a great hunter
he had many green hounds as swift as birds
he loved to eat a roasted swan


his name was Hubert
a wanton and merry friar
he too was worldly as the monk
but he was wicked
he kept company with esteemed women of the parish
he was a nice singer and played the fiddle
he was as strong as a wrestler but his neck was as white as a Lily
he was the best beggar of his monastery

The pardoner

he was the worst of the lot
his wallet was full of pardons “ come from Rome all hot “
he was a good story teller
he sang hymns

The summoner

was the functionary of the ecclesiastical courts
he was the pardoner's companion
he was hot and wanton as a sparrow
children were afraid of his visage( face)

Poor Parson

was an ideal parish priest
he was so humane
“if gold rusts what would iron do” is his attitude

The Clerk of Oxford

like the poor parson he was also an ideal man. whatever he earned he spent on books
his horse was lean as a rake

Wife of Bath

gap- toothed lady
“husbands at church she had five”; that is true about her
she had thrice been to Jerusalem
a liberated woman

The ploughman

brother of the poor parson
pleasant and hardworking man

The Miller

a very strong man
good at wrestling
was an excellent thief
veteran in doing adulteration
there is a wart right on the tip of his nose
his mouth was as big as a furnace implying his greed

The Manciple

a good natured man
very wise at buying provisions and a good bargainer
he had more than 30 masters


a wealthy man who took pride in his foreign contacts

Man of Law

he was a great scholar

The Franklin

he was like st julian in  his hospitality
his beard was  as white as a daisy
he was of sanguine complexion
he was of mirthful and carefree nature

Doctor of Physique

matchless in medicine and surgery
well instructed in astronomy
took less diet
knowledge in bible was meagre
always dressed gaudily  in red and blue gown
had a special love for gold for gold was cordial in medicine

the Reeve
slender and irritable fellow
people were afraid of his trickery
was also a good carpenter





he was  from Dartmouth

Harry bailey
he was the host

The Three Estates Satire
The work of The Canterbury Tales begins with a General Prologue, which is what in medieval terms is called an “estates satire.” “Estate” is a term for “class.” So it is a survey of the various “classes” of late medieval society. Each class is represented by a group of figures. The knight and squire represent the nobility. The monk and prioress represent the religious orders. At the other end of the social spectrum are the Parson and Plowman. They are idealized types, shining examples of the pious, hardworking and dutiful lower orders. The “satire” aspect comes from the fact that all these characters are often figures of fun. They are there to be ridiculed, or censured, or, occasionally, admired. People have often wondered why I put the Tales together. Well, let’s just say I’m playing with the “estates satire” to give a picture of a society in the process of change in the England of the 1380s and 1390s.

Questions from this part that appeared in previous years question papers

Chaucer satarizes the Monk because:
  1. he is too concerned with courtesy and manners etiquette
  2. cheats tge poor by selling them false religious relics
  3. courts favour of wealthy people but spends no time with poor people
  4. spends too much time hunting and too little time on religious duty
( December 2015)

In Chaucers Canterbury Tales the pilgrims like the medival society of which they are part are made up of three social groups or estates. what are the three estates?
  1. Nobility Church and Commoners
  2. Royalty nobility and peasantry
  3. Royalists republicans and peasants
  4. country city and commons
                       ( December 2015)

What narrative perspective does Chaucer employ in the opening of the General Prologue?

  1. First person I
  2. Omniscience
  3. Third Person
  4. Free indirect discourse
                      ( January 2017)

The seven deadly sins are sought to be portrayed in chaucers Canterbury Tales. Which of the following sins is not covered by Chaucer?
I Jealousy
II Envy
III Lust
IV Homicide

Right combination
  1. I &II
  2. I&III
  3. I&IV
  4. III & IV
            ( January 2017)


  1. Doubtlessly useful for those who appear for net exam in English..

  2. Doubtlessly useful for those who appear for net exam in English..


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