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The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

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The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer, sets out to expose the major themes of late medieval society. The dominant ideologies and elements of the time are revealed through character description as well as narration. By merging various different social classes together in one cohesive story, The Canterbury Tales provides the reader with a panoramic view of how medieval society truly was.

The first aspect of medieval society that the reader is introduced to is the idea of classes or "estates". Before the general prologue even commences, the reader is briefed about the three traditional classes which existed during that time period. Those classes consist of the nobility, the clergy, and then everyone else who existed in society. Chaucer takes it upon himself to characterize each member of the pilgrimage individually. He makes it quite clear that his interpretation of who these people are are entirely of his own opinion. The first pilgrim to be introduced to the reader is the Knight, the choice to establish the Knight first is fitting because he belongs to the nobility, which is the highest ranking social class. It is obvious from the very introduction of the Knight that he is a person whom Chaucer has great respect and admiration for. The Knight is described as a "worthy man" (Chaucer 43), as well as someone who is wholly committed to the ideas of generosity, chivalry, honor, freedom and truth. This is the first insight into the role that Knights and other individuals of such a statue played in medieval society, they were deemed as honorable and respectable men who were worthy of attention and praise.

The fourth pilgrim introduced by Chaucer is a Monk. The monk is described as a joyful, plump man who loves hunting. The monk is eloquently dressed with sleeves lined with the finest fur of the land, "I sawgh his sleeves purfiled at the hand, With gris, and that the finests of a land" (Chaucer 193). This is the first glimpse of Chaucer's displeasure with the Ecclesiastical estate of medieval society. The monk, a man of the church is portrayed not as a humble man but as a gleeful, overindulgent individual. This is representative of the poor image the Catholic Church had created for itself during late medieval society. The church has created a reputation for indulgence and corruption rather than charity and spiritual guidance. Furthermore the monk is characterized as lazy because he does not see the point in having to perform manual labor or study about church affairs. He believes that it would drive him crazy to have to study and read, "What sholde he studye and make himselven wood" (Chaucer 184).

Another member of the church estate whom Chaucer dislikes is the Friar named Huperd. The friar is a beggar who makes his living by pleading for donations. However instead of simply begging for donation from all individuals, the friar specifically begs at the



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