Essay on Geoffrey Chaucer 's The Canterbury Tales

Essay on Geoffrey Chaucer 's The Canterbury Tales

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Geoffrey Chaucer, in The Canterbury Tales, uses both a frame narrative and satire to describe the pilgrimage of thirty pilgrims. The purpose of Chaucer’s use of the frame narrative is to display to the reader the stories within. These pilgrims, as described in the outer frame of the work, embark on a great journey to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury, England. Chaucer created a character from most of the classes to ensure that his work has the characteristics of verisimilitude, yet excluded from the motley crew pilgrims of the highest and the lowest of the social ranks, royalty and serfs, respectively. The twenty-nine pilgrims, including Chaucer the Pilgrim, enter the journey, with Harry Bailly, their Host at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, England. Since the pilgrimage is long, Bailly suggests a storytelling contest to prevent boredom. Each pilgrim will tell two stories on the way to the shrine and another two stories on the way home; Harry Bailly will be the judge. The winning tale of this contest must be both moral and entertaining in order to win the prize of a free meal at the Tabard Inn, at the expense of the twenty-nine losers. These 120 tales would have made up Chaucer’s inner frame for his complete frame narrative, yet only twenty-four were written, two of which are fragments, before Chaucer’s death. The pilgrim that is the most intriguing and most contradictory yet most perfectly matched with his Prologue and Tale is the Pardoner, suggesting Chaucer’s uncanny ability to pair tale and teller.
Chaucer the Pilgrim describes the Pardoner’s physicality and character in great detail in the General Prologue. The Pardoner is described as having blonde, stringy hair that “Thinly . . . [falls], like rat-tails, on...


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... of satire in almost all of the pilgrims, especially the Pardoner, emphasizes the irony of each pilgrim and his or her social standing. The Pardoner is the most immoral of the motley crew and through Chaucer’s uncanny ability to make tale to teller, he gives the most moral tale. Although, the Pardoner first reveals the truth about his job handing out papal pardons and how unethical his job truly his. Not only is he easily bribed, but he sells fake relics to make more money, like many others with his profession. His job only further emphasizes the corruption of the church at that time. While his unscrupulous attitude is clearly shown, his tale is the most moral of the lot. The extreme contradiction of the personality of the Pardoner with the morality of his Tale clearly demonstrates Geoffrey Chaucer’s unmatched ability to match each pilgrim with the most fitting tale.

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