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Prologue to The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer


prologue to The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer

spak ful faire and fetisly, 73 After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, 74 125 For Frensh of Paris was to hir unknowe. Many of the 'types' of characters featured would have been familiar stock characters to a medieval audience: the hypocritical friar, the rotund, food-loving monk, the rapacious miller are all familiar types from medieval estates satire (see Jill Mann's excellent book for more information). The narrator writes that he has told us now of the estate (the class the array (the clothing and the number of pilgrims assembled in this company. Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe, 130 That no drope ne fille up-on hir brest. The words stand for themselves: and we interpret them as if they come from the pilgrims' mouths. At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle; She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle, Ne wette hir fingres in hir sauce depe. Or are these observations - supposedly innocent within the Prologue - to be noted down so as to be compared later to the Prioress' Tale? We must, therefore, view the General Prologue with some hesitation as a comparison point to the tales themselves: it offers useful or enlightening suggestions, but they are no means a complete, reliable guide to the tales and what they mean.

The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue by Geoffrey Chaucer



prologue to The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer

He can draw up a legal document, the narrator tells us, and no-one can find a flaw in his legal writings. He knows exactly how much grain he has, and is excellent at keeping his granary and his grain bin. His name is Huberd. What the Host describes is a tale-telling game, in which each pilgrim shall tell two tales on the way to Canterbury, and two more on the way home; whoever tells the tale 'of best sentence and moost solas' shall have supper at the cost. By the fact that the Knight, the highest-ranking of the pilgrims, is selected as the first teller, we see the obvious social considerations of the tale. The person who tells the best story will be rewarded with a sumptuous dinner paid for by the other members of the party. 11 Bifel that, in that sesoun on a day, In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay 12 20 Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage To Caunterbury with ful devout corage, At night was come in-to that hostelrye Wel 13 nyne and twenty. Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 6, and smale fowles maken melodye, That slepen al the night with open ye, 10 (So priketh hem nature in hir corages: 7, than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, And palmers for to seken straunge strondes. Curteys he was, lowly, and servisable, And carf 60 biforn his fader at the table.

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