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The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer

Study Questions & Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

Study Questions

1.

Why is the Knight first in the General Prologue and first to tell a tale?

The Knight is first to be described in the General Prologue because he is the highest on the social scale, being closest to belonging to the highest estate, the aristocracy. The Knight’s nobility derives from the courtly and Christian values he has sworn to uphold: truth, honor, freedom, and courtesy. The Knight’s Tale comes first because he has drawn the shortest straw of the group, although the narrator’s comment that the Knight drew the shortest straw “[were] it by aventure, or sort, or cas [whether by chance, luck, or destiny]” seems to suggest that he feels that it was not by chance at all that the Knight tells his tale first (General Prologue, 844).

2.

What makes the Pardoner so offensive?

The Pardoner is the most controversial of all the pilgrims for four reasons: his work, his sin (greed), his unrepentant pride, and his sexuality. The Pardoner’s job—giving people written absolution from sin—was a dubious profession in medieval Europe. As he reveals in his Prologue, the Pardoner is well aware that he himself is covetous, which is the very sin against which he preaches in order to con people into giving him money. What makes him so distasteful to the other characters, especially the Host, is that fact that he is so proud of his vice. In the General Prologue, the narrator suggests that the Pardoner’s sexual orientation is ambiguous, which means that he occupies an even further marginalized position in fourteenth-century society.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Compare the Miller’s Tale with either the Reeve’s Tale or the Summoner’s Tale. What are the different characteristics that make each tale a fabliau? Consider comic timing, plot intricacy, and the cast of characters within the tale.

2. Is the Wife of Bath meant to contradict the misogynist (woman-hating) ideas of her time, or to uphold them? Use the text to back up your argument.

3. Compare the ideals of courtly love in the Knight’s Tale with those in the Wife of Bath’s Tale. How are they different? How are they the same? Is there a difference in the way the female characters act in the two tales?

4. How does Chaucer conceive of ancient history and belief systems in the Knight’s Tale? How is his vision anachronistic? How does he attempt to make it less so? What is the function of time and the seasons in the tale?

More Help

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pardoners tale

by sons88, October 06, 2013

his story begins off with him telling everyone about drunken Flemish people.
then talks about their vices
he is very hypercritical
hates swearing
story is about a guy who poisons everyone else so that he could have all the gold
his tale ends with him trying to sell relics even though he told everyone in his prologue that they are fake

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