The medieval period 1066-1485 Types of Tales

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Geoffrey Chaucer’s


  • 1066-1485

Types of Tales

  • Tale of Chivalry
  • Tales of Marriage/Love
  • Cautionary Tales

About the Tales:

  • The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century (Yes, the 1300’s)
  • Only two of the tales are written in prose, the rest in verse (poetry).
  • The tales, some of which are originals and others not, are contained inside a frame story.
  • They are told by a collection of pilgrims on a pilgrimage from Southwark London to Canterbury, in order to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.
  • The Canterbury Tales are written in Middle English, but we will be reading a translated Modern English version.

What is a Frame Story?

  • a narrative technique where an introductory main story is written in order to set up another secondary story or a set of shorter stories.

Chaucer: Early Life

  • Born in 1343 (exact date unknown)
  • Son of a prosperous wine merchant
  • In mid teens, he was placed in the service of the Countess of Ulster so he could obtain more education and be schooled in court and society life.
  • Thus, he would have learned Latin and some Greek as well as perhaps some French and Italian

Early Life (cont.)

  • In 1359 he was captured by the French at the seige of Reims during the Hundred Years' War while serving in the English army.
  • He was ransomed by King Edward III a year later for 16 pounds.
  • Chaucer joined the royal household and became a trusted messenger and minor diplomat.

As a Royal Messenger

  • Chaucer was frequently sent on secret business for the King
  • Some of these trips were to Italy where he became acquainted with the works of the great Italian authors Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarch, of the greatest Italian writers of the early Renaissance period
  • Chaucer used their stories to develop many of the tales in The Canterbury Tales

Other Jobs Chaucer Held

  • Controller of Customs on Wools, Skins and Hides for the Port of London
    • Here he would meet many types of businessmen, sailors, travelers city folk and common laborers
  • Clerk of the King’s Works
  • Deputy Forester of the King’s Forests
    • Away from the city, he met peasants, foresters, local clergy and other country folk
  • Representative of the Shire of Kent in Parliament
    • Here he met the rich, the influential and the upper middle class as well as the higher ranking church officials

Chaucer’s Tomb Westminster Abbey

Chaucer’s Plan For The Canterbury Tales:

  • A Prologue followed by a series of stories and linking dialogues and commentaries
  • Each character would tell 2 stories going and 2 stories coming home from Canterbury
  • He died before he could finish this huge task

Why go to Canterbury?

One Answer: Religion

  • Canterbury has always been an important religious center in England. St. Augustine (seen in stained glass from the Canterbury Cathedral) was sent to Canterbury by Pope Gregory the Great to establish the Catholic faith in the country
  • Religion played an important part in medieval life

Why was religion important in Medieval Times?

  • It’s the Middle Ages which means:
    • Plague
    • Warfare
    • High Infant Mortality Rate
    • Short Life Expectancy
    • …and if you were a peasant, you lived your whole life in harsh conditions. About the best thing that you had to look forward to was dying and going to heaven.

The Shrine of St. Thomas à Becket

Becket was a trusted adviser and friend of King Henry

However, Becket’s outspoken style angered the King. One day, Henry complained, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Three knights then rode to Canterbury where they found Becket at the altar of Canterbury Cathedral…

…and killed him.

Canterbury Cathedral became a site for pilgrims to offer prayers to St. Thomas

Today, a modern cross made from swords marks the site of the martyrdom

Medieval society had generally been divided into three estates, or classes: clergy, aristocrat, and commoner All are represented on the pilgrimage in The Canterbury Tales.

So, let’s travel back to London, to the area called Southwark, and stop at the Tabard Inn

We’ll meet the characters and hear their stories.

The General Prologue in Middle English


General Prologue Reading Questions

  • 1. What is the setting of the main story? (Time/Place)
  • 2. How many pilgrims are traveling?
  • 3. What does the narrator warn us he will do?
  • 4. What does the narrator tell us about the Host?
  • 5. What does the Host tell the pilgrims they must do?
  • 6. What does the teller of the best tale win?
  • 7. Who will be the judge of the tales?

Wife of Bath

The Pardoner

The Miller

The Franklin

The Pardoner’s Tale

  • What are the three “brother’s looking for in this tale?
  • How do they find it?
  • What literary element is applied to death in order to create this tale?
  • Who do you think the old man that they encounter is?
  • How do the three men die?
  • What is ironic about their deaths?

The Pardoner’s Tale – Looking Deeper

  • Geoffrey Chaucer often wrote about the Seven Deadly Sins. Can you name all of them?
  • Which if the Seven Deadly Sins do you think is at the root of this tale? Explain why and how.
  • What do you believe is the moral of the Pardoner’s Tale?
  • Is this tale ironic coming from the Pardoner? Explain why you say yes or no.

The Pardoner’s Tale Essay

  • In your essay you must address:
  • 1. How does the tale relate back to the Pardoner himself?
  • 2. What do you think is the major theme of this tale? Give specific examples.
  • 3. Use the theme in order to formulate a moral or lesson that the tale tells and explain how it does so.


  • a common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a literary work. Generally, a theme has to be extracted as the reader reads the work of literature.


  • Satire is a technique used by writers to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of an individual or a society by using humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule. It intends to improve humanity by criticizing its faults. A writer in a satire uses fictional characters, which stand for real people, to expose and condemn their corruption.


  • Irony is a situation that may result in quite a different way than what is generally anticipated. In simple words, it is a difference between the appearance and the reality.

Group Analysis

  • Main Characters of tale
  • Main idea of tale
  • Themes represented in the tale
  • Moral of the tale
  • How the tale relates back to its teller
  • Literary devices used within the tale

The Pardoner’s Tale Essay

  • Essays must be 3 paragraphs
  • You must use 3 quotes in your essay from the Prologue or The Pardoner’s Tale
  • You must cite your quotes
  • Double spaced, 12 Times New Roman font
  • Heading

The Miller’s Tale

  • 1) How did Nicholas and Alison accomplish spending the night together in secret?
  • 2) Why does Absalon come back to Alison’s window a second time, offering her a ring?
  • 3) Come up with one word to describe each of the four main characters.
  • 4) Who of the four characters do you think is the biggest fool and why?

Character Cause and Effect

  • Nicholas
  • Abasalon
  • John
  • Alison

The Miller’s Tale

  • Is there a moral to The Miller’s Tale? Can we learn a lesson from the story’s outcome or from one of the characters? Answer yes or no and explain your opinion.

The Wife of Bath’s Tale

  • As you read the beginning of the story, identify the conflict of the story. In doing this, clearly state whom this tale is about, what he has done, and what his task is.
  • As you read further, you will come across a story about Midas and his wife. Record notes on this tale because you will have to analyze its significance to The Wife of Bath’s Tale at the end.
  • When you have completed the entire tale, identify the theme and the moral, as we have done.

The Franklin’s Tale Characters:

  • Arveragus
  • Dorigen
  • Aurelius
  • Aureluis’ brother
  • The Magician


  • Read “The Franklin’s Tale”
  • Write a one page response to his question at the end of the tale: Which character do you believe is the most generous?
  • Be sure to choose only one character and defend your answer by using specific references to the tale.

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