The Canterbury Tales

  • Plot: “The Canterbury Tales” narrates the journey of a group of pilgrims travelling to the shrine of Thomas Becket, as they entertain each other with a series of tales, each tale reflecting the character, social class, and values of the teller.
  • Structure & Language Techniques: The series of tales, told in verse form using a variety of poetic styles and modes, are structured as an outer frame narrative with an inner collection of tales, while language techniques include irony, satire, allegory, and rich figurative language.
  • Themes & Linking Poems: The recurring themes include religion, morality, courtly love, and social class; the tales are linked through shared themes, repeated motifs, and interconnected characters, creating a complex network of relationships.
  • Key Quotes: These include the opening lines of the General Prologue (“Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote / The droghte of March hath perced to the rote”) which typify Middle English poetic diction and syntax, and Chaucer’s satirical descriptions of characters like the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath.
  • Poet & Context: Geoffrey Chaucer, often called the ‘father of English literature’, lived in the late Middle Ages and his work reflects the social, cultural, and literary context of 14th-century England, including the influence of French and Italian literary traditions, the political and religious controversies of the time, and the diverse voices of English society.