How Chaucer's General Prologue Introduces the Canterbury Tales. Essay Example.

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1432 Words
Date:  2021-06-25

The General Prologue commence with a vivid description of how the showers in April blossomed the flowers, helping crops grow, made the birds sing and brought about a season which prepared people to go for pilgrimages. The journey by pilgrims involved paying homage to the holy places. Usually, people would go to Canterbury in England to pray at the shrine of a holy Saint who healed them when they were sick. The description of the physical landscape depicts a picture in which the environment set the mood and pace for the pilgrims to embark on a journey to Canterbury. The incredible journey to Canterbury plus the vivid description of 30 pilgrims is contained in the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Most of the tales are written in verse while some are written in prose form. To make the journey more enjoyable, the pilgrims engaged in a story-telling contest and the pilgrim who would win the competition would earn a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

After gathering in Tabard Inn, the pilgrims were served with supper as they prepared for their journey scheduled the next day. The host described them as being the merriest group of pilgrims and expressed his will to make them happy even more! Some of the pilgrims even got drunk. Geoffrey Chaucer, at the time, was at Tavern in Southwark as he also got ready to go on pilgrimage to Canterbury. After supper, when the pilgrims were in the jovial mood, and everyone had paid their bills, the host made a suggestion of the means by which they would make their journey to Canterbury more enjoyable. The host posted that they were the merriest group of pilgrims he had hosted all year round, and due to this, he would give them a free mirth to Canterbury (Chaucer, 8). The host told them that if they agreed to what he said, he would not only join them on their journey to Canterbury but also, he would bring onboard lots of fun during their trip.

Apart from riding with them to Canterbury at his cost and would act as a guide, governor, judge as well as a record keeper. Instead of riding dumb to Canterbury and make the journey enjoyable indeed, he proposed that each pilgrim would narrate two stories to and from Canterbury. In this case, the host would act as a mediator of the tales, and he would give the ruling as to who would tell the best story. The pilgrim who would win the tale-telling competition would have a free dinner at the tavern when they returned to the Tavern. Anyone who would object the decision of the host would have to pay for the expenses incurred in the journey. The pilgrims were too delighted even as the Host explained the rules of the game. It is from this excitement that the pilgrims were motivated and eager to come up with the best tales and consequently win the free dinner. After agreeing to the proposal, they swore to abide by the rules of the game.

Early the next morning, the Host woke the pilgrims and after preparing, they set off. It is during this time that Chaucer met the large group of pilgrims who are also on the journey to Canterbury. He familiarized himself with them and soon became part of the team. Chaucer described each pilgrim in detail. The massiveness and diversity of the company of pilgrims indeed show the levels of people in medieval society each one though different but having a mutual interest. Chaucer vividly described the pilgrims. He proceeded to say that he was repentant for anything that would be included in the narration and which would seem the report the pilgrims words and characters as plainly and truthfully as he can. Moreover, he added that whoever told stories of any person, he would have to repeat it word for word so that he would not tell falsehoods or makeup words. Upon riding a mile or two, the Host reminded them of the agreements the previous night.

The pilgrims, eager to tell tales, the Host proposed that they draw straws to establish the one who would narrate the story first. Consequently, after drawing the straw, luck fell on Knight as he would tell the story first. Though the agreement, terms, and conditions were defined and outlined by the Host, trouble set in. Almost immediately, one of the pilgrims started questioning the Hosts authority. After the first tale, the Hosts asked the Monk to narrate a tale, but the drunk Miller interrupted him and demanded that he would leave the game if he were denied the chance of being the next to tell the story. However, this is just the beginning of another trouble. Sooner than later, the hosts orderly vision of the game starts to experience challenges. Drunken pilgrims, mysterious strangers, as well as the conflicts between some of the pilgrims, ruined the game especially in many instances during the journey.

However, the pilgrims tell all kind of tales from romances and dirty stories, sermons, and Saints as well as comedies and tragedies. Some of the pilgrims started humiliating their fellow pilgrims and this only made matters worse! Miller, for example, told a tale about a carpenter whose wife committed adultery with a clerk and punished them in broad light right at the city center. Among the pilgrims, Reeve who happened to be a carpenter took the tale personally, and as a response to the humiliation, he also told a tale in which tale a Miller suffers humiliation at the hands of students (Chaucer, 28). The rivalry started growing fiercely among the pilgrims. At most times, the Host alternated the pilgrims telling the story to maintain peace and calm.

After Knights tale, Monk was next on line. However, even before he began telling his story, Miller, who was drunk at the moment, protested and demanded that he would be the next one to speak the story rest he would resign from the game. Reluctantly, the Host agreed to his proposal. After Monks tale, Miller narrates the story of a carpenter and his wife and how a clerk makes a fool of the carpenter. Reeve, the carpenter, compelled Miller to quit telling the story and asks him to stop spreading prejudice. The other characters continue telling their tales. Ideally, the Canterbury Tales end with the Parsons sermon on sin and repentance, before Chancer finally retracting.

It goes without saying that the Canterbury journey is one of the weirdest road trips in history. Geoffrey Chaucer comes up with the Canterbury Tales as a collection of narrations in a frame story as a means of not only passing time but also spreading the good news of English literature. The pilgrims heralded from all corners of the society. The use of a wide range of classes and types of people was without precedent in English. The characters represent the customs and practices existing during the 14th century. The telling of the tales was a means of introducing the English language as a primary language amidst languages such Italian, French etcetera. The contribution of The Canterbury Tales to English literature was the popularization of the English into the mainstream publications (Chaucer, 1851). English was a popular literary language century before Chaucers time. However, Chaucer made a great stride in English language and literature in England particularly at a time when French was widely spoken in literary circles. Geoffrey uses the tales and narrations of the characters to draw a picture of an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time especially the Church.

Moreover, the primary reason why Chaucer composed the General Prologue has recorded the tales told by each pilgrim during the journey to Canterbury. Each pilgrim was to narrate two stories on the way to Canterbury as well as during the return trip. If all were to go as planned, the total number of tales told by the pilgrims on the journey to and from Canterbury would be 120. However, after the narration of 24 stories, the Canterbury Tales comes to an abrupt end. It is still unclear of how the pilgrims arrive Canterbury, how the conduct themselves while there and who wins the competition in the story telling contest.

Work Cited

Barbrook, Adrian C., et al. "The phylogeny of the Canterbury Tales." Nature 394.6696 (1998): 839.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The canterbury tales. Courier Dover Publications, 2015.

Cooper, Helen. The Canterbury Tales. Oxford University Press, USA, 1989.

Kolve, Verdel Amos. Chaucer and the imagery of narrative: The first five Canterbury tales. Stanford University Press, 1984.

Pearsall, Derek. The Canterbury Tales. Routledge, 2013.

Cite this page

How Chaucer's General Prologue Introduces the Canterbury Tales. Essay Example.. (2021, Jun 25). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism