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The General Prologue

Canterbury Tales is a pageant of 14th Century life, because every class variation is represented except the highest and the lowest. No nobility and no serfs make the pilgrimage, but the pilgrims span the whole range of the unofficial middle class. These people act their parts in a way that reveals their private lives and habits, their moods and dispositions, their goo 525g64f d and bad qualities.

April Sweet Showers

As April comes, in the period of rain and rebirth of nature, while Zephyrus brings nature back to life and birds are making melodies, twenty-nine people make a pilgrimage toward Canterbury, to visit the tomb of Thomas Becket, the most venerated of English Saints. The rebirth of nature, here corresponds with the rebirth of spirit. The pilgrims begin the pilgrimage to Canterbury from the Tabard Inn at Southwark and the narrator describes them in turn, beginning with a Knight.

The Knight

The pilgrims are listed in relative order of status, thus the first character is the Knight. Chaucer describes the knight as a worthy man who had fought in the Crusades (page A50) to serve his king well. The Knight is a perfect and gentle man who loved truth, freedom, chivalry and honour, as we can read in line 3 and 4. In fact he experienced mortal battles, jousts and being in the lists. Chaucer describes his appearance pointing out his clothes and his horse, that is a part of his equipment. Despite his glorious deeds, the Knight never boasted nor bored his travelling companions with stories of his great deeds. The Knight is a positive character, he's a model who embodies chivalry values, and he's linked to the feudal world.

The Prioress

There is also a Prioress, shy and polite. She is prim and proper, sympathetic and well mannered. The Prioress, called Madame Eglantine, was a well-educated, gentle lady who could speak French. She tried to imitate the Court with her great courtesy and exceptional manners, especially at meat. She is described with an ironical vein, because, in this way, Chaucer emphasise her negative aspects. In fact, she doesn't respect the monastic rules, because se leaves uncovered her forehead and she wears a rosary with a golden brooch, instead of a cross. Through the description of her jewels, Chaucer points out the riches of the clergy and his anticlerical point of view (page A45). She is a negative character and her description points out Chaucer critical attitude and her hypocrisy. The description of the Prioress is overtly flattering yet masquerades a sharp criticism of her foolish sentimentality and oppressive attention to manners. Although she strives to be polite and refined, she spoke French after the school of Stratford-at-Bow, the vulgar rural pronunciation compared to Parisian French. Furthermore, she weeps at the mere sight of a dead mouse, a gross overreaction to a small tragedy.

Prologue to the Merchant's Tale

The Merchant (page A51) is a member of the rich and powerful rising middle class; he's a shrewd and knowledgeable businessman, few know of his deep debts. He claims that he knows nothing of long-suffering wives. If his wife were to marry the devil, she would overmatch him. The Merchant has been married two months and has loathed every minute of it. The travellers tell tales that conform to their personal experiences or attitudes, such as the Merchant, whose awful marriage is the occasion for his tale about a difficult wife.

The Merchant's Tale

The Merchant tells a tale of a prosperous knight from Lombardy who had not yet taken a wife. But when this knight, January, had turned sixty, he decided to finally be married. So, January married May, a beautiful young girl, in a joyous ceremony. On their wedding night January, consumed with lust, ravaged his wife. He essentially forced himself on May, believing himself justified because they were now married. Damian, January's squire, was infatuated with May and, one day, she deceives her old husband and has sex with her lover. When January discovers them, he gets his eyesight back.

The Merchant's Tale deals with love from different points of view and it's also an exploration between youth and old age. In fact, January represents also a month of Winter, that is symbol of old age, while May, a spring month, stands for beauty and youth.

The Franklin

The Franklin (page A51) is a landowner with a certain amount of land, but he isn't of noble birth. He spends money freely, enjoying good food, wine and company. He lives in comfort and is interested simply in pleasure, particularly culinary delight. He is simple, pure, humble and worthy, totally immersed in domestic reality. He is, however, a man of authority who insist on being served well. He is the symbol of stability, since he's Justice of the Peace. He devotes his energies to fine living and is generally liked by the other pilgrims.


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