Narrative Poem: The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

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Which pilgrim would most likely give absolution to a character in The Canterbury Tales? Explain your reasoning.


Read the description of the Wife of Bath in "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales. Cite two quotations of direct and indirect characterization that imply this woman is not as "worthy," or virtuous, as the speaker first indicates. Explain what a reader might infer about the woman's character.

(lines 459-462). The Wife of Bath gets angry if another woman draws attention away from her. "Her hose were of the finest scarlet red / And gartered tight; her shoes were soft and new / Bold was her face, handsome, and red in hue." (lines 466-468). The wife likes to attract and flirt with men.

In Chaucer's day, the science of medicine was taught quite differently from the way it is taught today. Chaucer tells us the Doctor "was a very good practitioner" (line 424). If this is true, how did doctors treat their patients in the 1400s? Write a detailed paragraph describing the physician's art, using examples and quotations from "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales for support.

say doctors used astrology to diagnose and treat patients. They made charms and magic effigies to balance the four humors.

In "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales, the narrator provides many details about the other pilgrims going to Canterbury, but he says little about himself. The reader is left to infer the narrator's character from what most impresses the narrator as worthy of reporting, what the narrator accepts as true—that is, how discerning he is—and from what little he says directly to the reader about himself and his manner of storytelling. Write an essay in which you explain the nature of the narrator's personality, supporting your ideas with evidence from the text.

Chaucer's narrator has a naive, simpleminded personality. To illustrate this, students might point to the fact that he seems to be impressed by people's titles, clothes, and other possessions and tends to take what they say about themselves as being true. They might further support this impression with the narrator's direct statement about himself, made in an apology in line 766, "I'm short of wit as you will understand."

Both the Nun and Parson serve their church and its people, but they have two very different personalities. Based on Chaucer's direct and indirect characterizations, which of the two does he most likely consider the more devout Christian? What evidence from "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales supports your opinion? Respond to these questions in a thoughtful, well-organized essay.

the Parson is the more devoted Christian because he is holy, virtuous, and compassionate. He does not take from the poor but lives among them, serving as a model for Christian service. The Nun's courtly manner suggests she is more concerned with appearances and impressing people with her position in higher society.

In "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's narrator introduces many different characters traveling to Canterbury. Choose one of these characters and write an essay explaining the nature of his or her personality and what the key details and statements reveal about this individual's personality.

Students should support their conclusions about the nature of the character they have chosen to write about with details of appearance, behavior, and speech as well as any direct statement Chaucer's narrator makes about the nature of that individual's personality

In lines 334-337 of "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer describes the Franklin as "White was his beard as is the white daisy. Of sanguine temperament by every sign/He loved right well this morning sop in wine. Delightful living was the goal he's won." Choose the best definition for sanguine. Write two quotations from the text to support your answer.

b. cheerful

Read the following excerpt from "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales. Then fill in the chart, using the who, what, where, when, why, and how questioning strategy.
It happened in that season that one day / In Southwark, at The Tabard, as I lay / Ready to go on pilgrimage and start / For Canterbury, most devout of heart, / At night there came into that hostelry / Some nine and twenty in a company / Of sundry folk happening then to fall / In fellowship, and they were pilgrims all / That towards Canterbury meant to ride (lines 19-27).

Who: Narrator and pilgrims; What: spending the night; Where: hostelry; When: one night; Why: on pilgrimage; How: by horse.

As the father of English poetry, Chaucer is well known for his "penetrating insight into human character." In an essay, explain how this illuminating view is evident in "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales. Use specific examples from the poem to elaborate on your thoughts.

Chaucer's use of wit, allusion, irony, and innuendo to draw his complex characters. He presents the qualities, frailties, values, and motivations of the pilgrims

Consider the many characterizations in "The Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales of the men and women associated with the church. From these portraits, what conclusion might you draw about Chaucer's attitude toward the church and/or religious practitioners? Write an essay in which you present your conclusion and support it with evidence from "The Prologue."

Chaucer has a fairly cynical attitude toward the church and religious practitioners, viewing most of them as corrupt and as given to self-serving and so-called "sinful" behavior as the people for whom they supposedly set an example. To illustrate this, students might point to his characterizations of the Nun, the Monk, the Friar, the Summoner, and/or the Pardoner—and, in particular, what these characters say about how they spend their time and what they're willing to overlook or pardon in exchange for gifts.

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