The Canterbury Tales: Plot and Structure of the Work

The Canterbury Tales is an unfinished work in which Jeffrey Chaucer was working on until his untimely death. It is composed of some passages which are sometimes seen as controversial. It’s generally accepted that the text is divided into ten fragments, the first which begins with the General Prologue, and the last one ending with Chaucer’s Abdication. Pilgrims do not reflect the entire modern English society and are not endowed with deep characters–each of them is an embodiment of a particular profession, which happens to be a social role. The author uses the prologue to outline the main problems of the Middle Ages and later in the stories of each hero, to ridicule them.

The prologue takes place in the middle of spring, like thebirth of a new life, which prompts the pilgrims to travel. In the prologue of fairy tales, Chaucer uses a subtle choice of words and implicit action in the plot to symbolize the power of the lower classes when it comes to hierarchy. While the narrator should be different from the author himself, readers can see that many characters are respected and written in mannerisms that reflect Chaucer’s honest opinion.

The narrator describes the pilgrims who will later share their stories in the prologue. The author focus on the social status of each hero, and already from the descriptions, it becomes clear that the pilgrimage for almost all of them is not a spiritual mission but a holiday. Representatives of the Catholic Church often abuse their position, try to annoy other swith their stories, seem to be more devoid of high spiritual feelings than representatives of their professions. It’s worth noting that Chaucer himself, throughout his life, remained loyal to the aristocracy, and for many years he studied the entire internal structure of the upper strata of society without referring to them.

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