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The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales is a compilation of twenty four stories by Geoffrey Chaucer. It was written between 1387 and 1400. The story is about thirty people pilgrimaging to the holy place of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury in England. During their traveling, the pilgrims coming from different strata of society engage in storytelling to pass their time. The author had planned for two tales to be shared by each pilgrim during each side of their journey. Unfortunately, this was not accomplished. In fact, he couldn’t even revise the completed tales. These tales have been handed over to next generations in the form of handwritten manuscripts as printing press had not been invented till then (“About the Canterbury Tales,”n.d.). The foremost version of The Canterbury Tales was printed by William Caxton in 1476.

A unique and interesting feature of The Canterbury Tales is the fantastic and detailed description of each of the pilgrims by the speaker who is one amongst the pilgrims. For instance, the cook has an abscess on his leg which looks a lot like one of the desserts made by him. The miller is said to have big, pug nose. These intricate details make these tales all the more fun to read. The author uses popular classification of medieval era to portray the occupations or social class the characters belong to. Some of his characters are based on “anticlericalism,” which started as a reply against the mistreatment by church priests in the medieval era and became the commonly held image of monks, priest, nuns, friars and people in similar positions. The Canterbury Tales is written in an era which believed that the physical traits or the segment to which a person belonged to revealed the actual person. This book drives home the point that people, even those known to us, are multi-dimensional and should not be judged based on stereotypes.

The author gives a detailed description of twenty-seven of the pilgrims at the Tabard Inn in Southwark near London. The speaker of the best story will be given a feast at Bailey’s inn, the expense of which will be borne by the other pilgrims. Lots were drawn to decide the sequence of the story telling.

The author is careful not to hurt the sentiments of any particular class. The story by each of the pilgrim is written in a language fitting their social standing. The Canterbury Tales is an exemplary example of literature and includes innumerable linguistic forms and metaphorical styles.

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