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Compare and contrast the presentation of three pilgrims from Chaucer's 'General Prologue' and show how their descriptions add to our understanding of his society.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the presentation of three pilgrims from Chaucer's `General Prologue' and show how their descriptions add to our understanding of his society. `The Canterbury Tales' is a group of tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer in about 1387. Chaucer was supposed to write 24 tales but died before he could complete them and so the Canterbury Tales consist of 22 tales and two long prose tales. The General Prologue gives a brief but vivid description of each pilgrim that is journeying to Canterbury before the pilgrims actually begin telling their tales. Most literature written in the medieval period was written in either French or Latin especially poems or Holy Scriptures and so when Chaucer wrote `The Canterbury Tales' in Middle English he was making a statement. Chaucer wanted to promote the vernacular language of England and so wrote `The Canterbury Tales' in `Chaucerian' English. Three of the best examples of the pilgrims in the `Tales' are the Knight, the Wife of Bath and the Monk who all tell us a great deal about Chaucer's society. The Knight is a "verray, parfit gentil knyght" who earns his living by fighting for his faith and defending his king. The Knight has a very high status in the feudal system in Chaucer's society and is "Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre". The Knight is as "meeke as a mayde", he is "verray, parfit and gentil". ...read more.

Middle

The rusted armour that he wears and the old clothes that he wears also show that he is not materialistic or vain and doesn't care about what people think about him. Finally the fact that Chaucer does not mention a lot about his physical appearance adds to the fact that he is humble and not vain because for the Wife of Bath Chaucer mentions everything about her appearance because she is vain and cares about what people think about her. The fact that the Knight's horse is plain and functional also proves that the Knight is not materialistic. The Wife of Bath however does not wear old tattered clothes in fact, "Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed....and shoes ful moyste and newe." The fact that the Wife of Bath has to buy new shoes for a pilgrimage shows just how vain she is because she wants everyone to see his wealth. The fact that her stockings are red shows just how rich she is because in the Middle Ages dying clothes different colours was very expensive. The red stockings also suggest that she is gregarious and likes to be noticed or perhaps they are a sign of passion. The Wife of Bath is a bit like the Prioress because both are vain and like expensive clothes and jewellery. Chaucer writes a lot about the Wife of Bath's appearance which suggests that she likes to be noticed and is concerned with appearance. ...read more.

Conclusion

Thomas, holy martyr blessed" but some have other ulterior motives for going there. The Knight, I think, is on the pilgrimage to give thanks to God and St. Thomas Beckett for bringing him back alive and well from battle. The Wife of Bath likes to show off about being holy because she was first in line in the offertory and gave the most. She could be going to Canterbury for a holiday, to travel more, to find another husband, to show off how rich she is; compared with The Knight she is only on the pilgrimage for materialistic reasons whereas the Knight like the Parson is on the pilgrimage for authentic religious reasons.The Monk could be on the pilgrimage to socialise or it could be a reason to get out of the cloistered of the monastery; both of which are not holy reasons. In conclusion I believe that The Knight is the only authentic person on the pilgrimage and is the overall `real' pilgrim; he is on the pilgrimage for the right reasons and he dedicates his time to those that are in need. On the other hand the Wife of Bath and the Monk are both on the pilgrimage for vain and materialistic reasons these are what I would class as the `fake' pilgrims the ones on the pilgrimage for the wrong reasons; they only do things that will benefit themselves. These three people tell us that Chaucer's society has two typical stereotypes; the poor are humble and religious and the rich are vain and materialistic. ...read more.

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