Middle Ages/Chaucer/The Canterbury Tales Skip to Course Menu
Terms in this set (52)
Although Chaucer was born a commoner and continued to associate with commoners in his official life, he did not live as a commoner; and although his training and service at court, his wife's connections, and probably his poetry brought him into contact with the nobility, he must always have been conscious of the fact that he did not really belong to that society of which birth alone could make one a true member. How is Chaucer's situation at the intersection of these social worlds evident in The Canterbury Tales
In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's unique social situation is evident in the variation of the cast of characters. "Chaucer's pilgrim narrators represent a wide spectrum of ranks and occupations" (241). It is because of Chaucer's experience with people from all social ranks that he is able to create such believable and varied characters; although it is often missed, Chaucer even includes "details to give an intergrated sketch of the person being described." Chaucer's experience with people from all walks of life is also evident in that he subtly judges them. He does this to leave ultimate judgment of each character to the reader. That is why when we read descriptions of the characters who are part of the clergy, we have to keep in mind whether their descriptions match Christian ideals or are examples of hypocrisy. Since Chaucer has relationships with both the common class and nobility, he is able to appreciate the skills of all people, regardless of social situation
What type of language is used to describe Chauntecleer and Pertelote? Why is this language humorous?
The language is a parody of courtly romance. Chauntecleer and Pertelote are the Lord and Lady of the banyard, basically establishing themselves as the nobility of the chicken coup. Pertelote, like the Wife of Bath, scolds her husband into submission by calling a "coward" who needs a "laxative." He then conforms to her expectations by divulging himself in her feathery body and using the intercourse to chase away the dream. The conversation between them is very humorous when seen as a parody of how men and women have been portrayed thus far in the tales.
Does the Wife expose power relations that are inevitable in marriage? Is the Wife capable of imagining any alternative to the exercise of absolute power by either husband of wife in marriage?
There seems to be an inherent power struggle between men and women that is expressed here. There doesn't seem to be room for compromise. Either the man dominates his wife physically or the wife dominates her husband sexually. This seems to establish the state of marriage of this time.
The wife does expose the power some relations that can be inevitable. She marries for the wrong reasons no for love. Thw wife will never be able to change her ways. The power to control her husbands is to appealing
Does the Wife expose power relations that are inevitable in marriage? Is the Wife capable of imagining any alternative to the exercise of absolute power by either husband of wife in marriage
The Wife of Bath had five husbands and wants to marry the Knight who will became the sixth. three elderly rich ones, whom she nagged constantly but also satisfied sexually; a fourth "revelour" with whom she had epic sexual battles; and her fifth (and 'true love') Jankyn, the young clerk who marries her for her money and makes her life a living hell by beating her, reading her antifeminist literature, literally deafening her, and finally almost killing her. Only when he fears he has killed her does he relent and grant her maistrye—which she embraces by socking him in the face, then turning around and telling a tale of what would happen if women ran things
Husband #4 (summarize)?
Husband #4 was a reveller. He was a lover and loved to enjoy himself. He also had a mistress. The Wife of Bath says that she was his purgatory on earth. She made him very jealous by flirting with other men
Husband #5 (summarize)?
1.The fifth husband is violent and abuses her because she snatches a book he has been reading. This is how she becomes deaf. She pretends to be dead trying to make him feel guilty. Her concern here is not to make him understand what he has done is wrong, but to use her helplessness to attain power and authority over him, which she ultimately gains.
Additionally the 5th husband is the only one she married for love, and he was 20 years her junior. She also met her fifth husband, Jankyn, while she was still married to her fourth.
What crime has the knight committed, and what quest does the queen set the knight?
The knight raped a maiden. The queen asked him if he could tell her what thing it is that women most desire. He did not have an answer for her right away so she sent him on a quest, giving him a year to go and find the answer to her question and bring it back to her. If he could do this, his life would be spared but if he couldn't, he would lose his head
Who is the Host and what does he propose?
The Host was a very joyous and merry person. He enjoyed their presence and tells them that they were the merriest of guests that have passed through. He proposed that he would provide them with some entertainment if they would only do as he said, and they agreed.
He proposed that they each tell 2 tales on the way to Canterbury and 2 more tales on the way back and whoever tells the best story will get a supper paid for by the others when they return from Canterbury.
He gets them to basically agree to have another big meal at his tavern. This deal is not to provide entertainment but to garner more business for himself
The Wife of Bath begins by establishing the setting of her Tale as "the old days of King Arthur" when the "land was all filled with fairies." According to the Wife of Bath, why are there no more fairies in Britain
There are no more fairies and elves in Britain because of Christianity "for now the great charity and prayers of limiters and other holy friars..." (221). When Christianity became popular the concept of magic was lost. Faith was no longer in the magic of fairies and elves and pixie dust, but in a savior from our sins. When that faith was lost, so were the fairies.
To whom was Chaucer apprenticed? How was this experience beneficial to him in terms of his own social mobility?
his father was apparently able to place him, in his early teens, as a page in one of the great aristocratic households in England, that of the countess of Ulster who was married to Prince Lionel the second son of Edward the III.
This is where Chaucer would have required the manners and skills required for a career in the service of the ruling class not just in the attendance of royal households but in a series of administrative posts. This probably gave him a variety of experience in being able to communicate and observe those of the upper class. As well as the work he did as an apprentice gave him the skills and credentials to make him capable of acquiring a variety of good jobs through out his life
How was Chaucer's diplomatic mission to Italy in 1372 a milestone in his literary development?
This brought him in direct contact with the Italian Renaissance. Probably he acquired manuscripts of works by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. These writers provided him with models of new verse forms, new subject matter, and new modes of representation.
Correct and because of his travels and exposure to those writing influences, Chaucer's writings "were many faceted: they embraced prose and poetry; human and divine love; French, Italian, and Latin sources; secular and religious influences; comedy and philosophy, ... [where] His career brought him into contact with overlapping bougeois and aristicrat social worlds, without being securely anchored in either." Chaucer never thought of himself as being in society and wished not. His inspirational values were with his writing and who could be in society without being apart of it.
Briefly describe the monk.
was a good prelate, he did not care for the strict rules according to the rule of Saint Benedicts and Saint Maurus. This monk let old fashioned things such as these pass away giving way to the more modern world. Unlike the typical monk, he pursued a passion for hunting. He was well dressed, including the finest furs and enjoyed eating. He was handsome as well and capable of being an abbot
Briefly describe the merchant
a worthy and prideful man. Even though he appeared to be good at bargaining and borrowing he was actually in debt but did a good job at not letting people know this.
The clerk of Oxford
took pleasure in reading and learning and studied philosophy. He would rather have books than silver or gold, spending all he had on books and learning. He didn't speak much but when he did, it was short and to the point, uplifting and full of moral quality.
Briefly describe the friar
most despicable of all that have been described so far. We have to consider how he is described and compare that to what a Monk should be. St. Francis ministered to beggars and lepers. He is who the Friar should emulate. Instead, he believes that beggars and lepers cannot help the church. He prefers to help the rich who pay him for their penance, which means they buy off their sins for his absolution. The Friar is also described as being "wanton" and that "he had married off many a young woman at his own expense." This indicates that the Friar was a lusty individual who likely had sex with the young ladies and married them off to rich husbands to cover the breaking of his vows. The friar is a hypocrite and despicable man.
What elements of antifeminist rhetoric do you find in the tale?
There is also the obvious polygamy of Chauntecleer and his plural wives. That is certainly misogynistic in nature. Then Chauntecleer speaks about the ineffectiveness of feminine advice. He also says that woman is man's ruin, and then Chauntecleer enjoys his physical rights to his wife
What is the moral of the fable?
The moral of the story is the dangers of flattery. Both Chauntecleer and the fox fall victim to flattery. Chauntecleer lets the fox flatter him about his singing voice and this allows the fox to snatch him and run off. The fox falls victim to Chauntecleer's flattery about outrunning the his pursuers that he ends up losing his prey. In addition, their is a second moral of the fable about not listening to women. Chauntecleer only goes into the barn yard due to his pride, which was wounded by Madame Pertelote when she called him a coward.
Chauntecleer ultimately chooses to "defy nightmares and dreams." Why?
He chooses to "defy nightmares and dreams" because of the love, and lust, he has for Madame Pertelote. As he says "Woman is man's joy and all his bliss." He also says that when he feels her beside him he is filled with so much "joy and delight" that he is pretty much able to overcome any nightmare or dream he may have. I think he ultimately decided to overcome his "nightmare" because Madame Pertelote had previously called him a coward and said she could not love a coward. He did it because he wanted to make her happy and keep her love.
How do the argument and its result reflect aspects of The Wife of Bath's Prologue?
The Wife of Bath ruled over her husbands using her sharp wit and sexual advantages. She used her womanly wiles in order to get her husbands to give her what she wanted. The same can be said for what happens to Chauntecleer for going against his instinct to avoid the barn yard and believe his dream all because his love called him a coward. Madame Pertelote chastises Chauntecleer and makes him feel like less of a man so he feels like he has to act brave regardless of the danger he saw in his dreams.
What does the Wife of Bath say about her first three husbands and her relationship with them (summarize)?
The Wife of Bath then tells of her marital experiences. Her first three husbands were good, very rich and old and she enjoyed absolute power over them. She did not value her three husbands or their love, and she took no time to please them, unless it was for profit or pleasure. The Wife of Bath advises young inexperienced wives to constantly nag their husbands to maintain control of their marriage.
How does the Wife of Bath establish herself as an authority on marriage?
The Wife of Bath definitely establishes herself as being the authority figure in the marriage because of her five walks down the aisle. She believes that in order to have a good marriage the woman must be in charge, though she is fine with doing certain activities when her husband asks her but when it comes to work and decisions to be made she becomes the boss. If her husband is not willing to do these things she will train him by constantly making him feel guilty until her learns to give her what she wants. The Wife of Bath certainly is a fan of having as many husbands as she pleases to get what she desires at any cost.
What is her view of Scripture and of God's plan?
Her view of Scripture and of God's plan is that we are meant to increase and multiply, but there was no mention of how many marriages one was limited to. She also mentions that she doesn't believe that God made our private parts to distinguish man from woman and that we have such parts to provide with pleasure as well. She uses the Biblical reference that Jacob and Abraham were both holy men but had multiple wives. The Wife of Bath is definitely a sexual being who enjoys sexual mastery. However, she isn't entirely wrong in her logic is she? She wants someone to tell her where it says how many husbands a woman can have. No one can give her proper reasoning especially when she uses Biblical figures such as Jacob and Abraham who all had multiple wives but were holy men. What makes her gender different? That's what she wants to know. She also 't believes that private parts were made for "business" (or voiding the bladder) and "pleasure" (having intercourse)
Briefly describe the Wife of Bath.
be described as the woman being the malnipluator and having dominance over her husband. The wife takes much pleasure in doing so and does not marry for love until her fifth husband. A husband who treated her as she had treated her previous husbands.
Briefly describe the parson
a good man of religion with rich holy thoughts, a clerk who truly preached Christ's gospel. He was also a very patient man. He gave to those who were in need even though he was indeed needy hiself.
His brother the plowman was a poor but good faithful laborer who lived in peace and perfect charity. He loved his neighbors and would do many things to help them if needed.
Briefly describe the miller
a dishonest man, who was huge and stout. He was large boned and would always win wrestling matches. He was known as a story teller but mostly os about sins. He had a red beard and a very ugly wart on the tip of his nose. He was also known to steal corn and charge three times as much.
describe the manciple
in charge of handling purchases of multiple Lords' houses. He is the best of all at helping the Lords become prosperous and wealthy.The manciple is looked at as an example to others for how to wisely purchase food supplies. However, his ethics are soon questioned. Here he is, an uneducated man, "surpassing the wisdom of a heap of learned men." His thirty masters are lawyers, but somehow the manciple remains ahead of the game and in good financial standing.
briefly describe the reeve
appearance is rather sickly with his shortly shaved hair, lean body, and skinny legs. He takes care of his master's estate with a sharp knowledge. "He could calculate, according to droughts and rains, what the yield of his seed and grain should be." Anyone who works with reeve dares not to cheat him out. That doesn't keep the reeve from deceiving his own lord. The reeve steals goods from the lord and then lends those same goods back to him, winning favor with his lord. The reeve is also described sitting on a dapple gray horse, wearing a long blue coat; both of these are symbols of financial success.
Briefly describe the Summoner.
an advisor in the church; he had "pimply...fire-red face like a cherub...scabby black brows and a scanty beard" that would frighten "little children." Chaucer presents the Summoner negatively. Although the Summoner was part of the church, "he liked to drink strong wine." Chaucer also tells that the Summoner took bribes "of wine... [to] allow a good fellow to have his concubine for a year, and would excuse him fully." Chaucer sarcastically calls the Summoner "a gentle, kindly rascal; no one could find a better fellow." The Summoner's corruption is that he abuses his title since he would threaten "every guilty man ...excommunication" if they did not give him money.
Briefly describe the Pardoner
in The Generals Prologue, appears to be a swindler, and very deceitful. He would deceive people by appearing to be a preacher but then in the same way he would take their money by telling them their sins would be forgiven if they gave money for a good cause.
What is the knight's choice and what happens after he makes his choice?
The knight is told by his wife that he can choose for her to be young, beautiful and unloyal or old, ugly and loyal. He tells her to choose what she will become. She becomes young, beautiful and loyal. He has given her the control of the relationship. The outcome is a long and happy marriage.
Why should the hard-headed bourgeuis wife of bath choose a romance about aristrocrats ending happily ever after?
As a woman who enjoys love and mastery, the Wife of Bath chooses this story to prove that when a woman is happy in a marriage, everyone is happy. The man gets what he wants while the woman, who is in control, gets everything she wants as well
Briefly describe the sergeant of the law
The Man of the Law, unlike the Clerk, uses his knowledge for monetary gain The Sergeant of the Law was well respected, professional, discreet, and wise; he would often take his clients to the portal of Saint Paul's Cathedral for consultations. The Lawyer was often a judge in the king's court by appointment given full commission. For his knowledge, the Sergeant of the Law had won many cases and robes. The Lawyer was the best I all the lands, flawless. For he, the lawyer knew the legal terms and judgments in all his cases. The Sergeant of Law rode in a plain dressed coat with a silk belt, and small metal ornaments.
briefly describe the franklin
evidently devoted to "liv[ing] pleasurably."
confident, cheery, white bearded Franklin accompanied the lawyer. The Franklin the landowner, the only son of a cook, accustomed to living with life's pleasures which he believed was true, perfect happiness. He was a homeowner and "the patron saint" of hospitality. The Franklin's cook labored tirelessly filling the great hall with endless, pungent dishes of carp, pike and partridges, according to the season. The Franklin dressed with a dagger and purse made of silk that spent his days as Knight of the Shire.
Briefly describe the guildsmen
Guildsman/Tradesman: Peddler, Dyer, Weaver, Tapestry-Maker, and Carpenter
◦The guildsmanconsisted of a haberdasher, weaver, dyer, tapestry maker.
◦ Haberdasher (a peddler sells items like buttons, or materials to make clothes.
◦The Haberdasher, the Dyer, the Weaver, the Tapestry-Maker, and Carpenter adorned in new dignified clothes made from their livelihood. They made their ornate knives, belts, and purses with silver not brass. The guildsman admitted into the guildhall to sit on the bench because they were wise elder men with property and income. Their wives would agree to their husband's income and sit in the front of the church.
The Tradesmen, as their descriptions imply, were all dressed well and had ornately decorated gear. They were wealthy, and the narrator views them in a way that shows them as successful and well regarded
The finest Cook
was there for the occasion. He could roast, broil and fry, and bake the most elegant seasoned stews, and pies, until he had ulcers on his shins. The cook could easily pick out a draft of London ale.
The Shipman/ Sailor
from the far west, dressed in a course knee length woolen gown who rode a large horse. When the bearded Shipman fought, he had the upper hand, to send many captives home by sea. The hot sun tanned the good fellow. The shipman was great at his craft by monitoring the tides, currents hazards around him with the use of the moon and compass to guide him. He knew all the heavens from Gotland to Finisterre and every creek from Brittany and Spain
The Doctor of Medicine
was like none other in medicine and surgery. Guided by astrology and knowledge of natural medicine, the Doctor of Medicine headed his patients with images. The Doctor knew the cause of every severe illness where it began. Once, the Doctor discovered the cause of illness requested his apothecary send him the medicine. Each made a profit and friendship by the other. The Doctor studied the ancient physicians of his time. The doctor dressed in Bright red and blue taffeta and valued the stimulant, gold
The Shipman and the Doctor are
characters that lie and steal for money. The Shipman is a pirate and the doctor's love of gold suggests that he practices medicine not to help others but to help himself.
What does the loathly lady in the forest tell the knight about women?
The loathly lady in the forest tells the knight that "'women desire to have dominion over their husbands as well as their lovers, and to be above them in mastery;'" (Chaucer 229).
What choice does the loathly lady offer the knight, once they are married
The loathly lady tells the knight to choose whether to have ugly and old until her death and be a great wife to him, or have her young and fair and always be wanted by other men.
What is the knight's choice, and what happens after he makes his choice?
The knight chooses to let the loathly lady make the choice for herself. After he makes his choice, the woman becomes young and fair, and also becomes a good wife to him. "And thus they lived to the ends of their lives in perfect joy;" (Chaucer 239)
What event in 1066 brought change to Anglo-Saxon England? How was language impacted? (
The Normans invaded England and took possession of the land in 1066. The Norseman were from Northern France and integrated the French language into England at the time. There was mixture of the Italian language being used as well as the Celtic Language. This created an opportunity for linguistic and cultural exchange
What is significant about the literature being written from about 1200 onward?
Around 1200, The English language began making its mark and was used in poetry and prose for sophisticated and well educated readers whose primary language was English. The English language began gaining ground and momentum during this time period and eventually became the predominant language. The French language was now a second language to the children of nobility and merchant class
The three categories of medieval society
were the nobility, the church, and the laity. By the late 1300s, however, these categories were layered into complex, interrelated, and unstable social strata in a world that was rapidly changing economically, politically, and socially.
Into what class was Chaucer born? Who was his father? What area of London was Chaucer living in because of his father's work?
Chaucer was the son of a well to do merchant by the name of John Chaucer. John Chaucer was wealthy and inherited land and property along with his wife. He was said to live on Thames Street in the parish of ST. Martin
In the opening of The General Prologue, what is the time of year, where is the narrator lodged, and where are he and 29 others going?
The time of the year was spring. The narrator was lodged in Southwark at the Tabard Inn, and he and the 29 others were going to Canterbury.
Yes, they were going to Canterbury on a pilgrimage
Briefly describe the prioress
name was Madame Eglantine, was a nun with a modest, sweet smile who speaks French and sings. She has admirable table manners and is cheerful, pleasant and charitable.
The Prioress's concern with her table manners shows she was very much interested in being a lady of society. This certainly goes against her position in the church.
Briefly describe the Monk
fat, well dressed, and out to have a good time. He also didn't believe in following the teachings of St. Augustine, which shows he was not as pious as he should have been. The monk was an inspector of his monastery's estates. He was a manly horseman, who loved venery and was capable of being an abbot. He held the ways of the modern world, rather than holding onto the old-fashioned things.
What does Chauntecleer dream and how does Pertelote respond?
Chauntecleer, a rooster dreams of a fox that wants to seize his body and kill him. Pertelote, the favorite hen, ridicules him because he is afraid of a dream. She continues to say that she cannot love a coward and that dreams come from overeating and gas. She blames his dream on his red choler which is supposed to cause folk to dream of huge beasts that want to bite them.
She also calls him a coward and asks, "Have you no man's heart, and yet you have a man's beard?" She also suggests he take a laxative because he is full of it. She dismisses his dream completely.
Chauntecleer disagrees with Pertelote. How does he attempt to disprove her?
Chauntecleer attempts to prove Pertelote wrong by telling her stories he has heard of similar instances where people have had dreams that turn out to be true. He tells her of a man who dreamed his friend came to him twice in a dream asking for help because he was to be killed that night. The third time the friend came he told the man that he had already been killed and told him where to find his body. When the man woke he found that all his dreams had come true. Chauntecleer also told Pertelote of two men who were to set sail, but when one man dreamed of someone telling him that if he sailed tomorrow he would drown, he decided not to go but the other went and sure enough the ships bottom split and the ship and man sank. Chauntecleer also sent Pertelote to look in the Old Testament at the story of Daniel and Joseph. He also gave her Lord Pharaoh, Croesus, and Andromache as examples of people in history who had dreams that later became true.
How is Chauntecleer taken by the fox? How does he escape?
The fox tells Chauntecleer that he is not there to hurt him but to hear his beautiful singing. He tells the rooster of how his father used to sing and that to make his voice stronger he would sing high on his toes, stretching out his neck with his eyes closed. Taken by the fox's flattery Chauntecleer imitates his father and the fox bites him in the throat. When the whole barnyard chases the fox in pursuit of their rooster, Chauntecleer tells the fox that he should stop to tell his pursuers to give up. The fox's pride is now his undoing and as as he opens his mouth to taunt his pursuers, Chauntecleer escapes and flies high up in tree.