“The General Prologue” and “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” are very interesting but they would have been more enjoyable if they were written in Modern English instead of Middle English. I had to stop every other word to look up definitions on the OED.
In “The General Prologue” some of the people the narrator encounters are a Knight, Squire, Yeoman, Prioress, Monk, Frere, Merchant, Clerk, Man of Law, Franklain, Haberdasshere, Carpenter, Weaver, Dyer, Tapestry-Weaver, Cook, Shipman, Physician, Wife, Parson, Plowman, Miller, Manciple, Reeve, Summoner, Pardoner, and Host. It’s important for them to be mentioned in order for Chaucer to expose and ridicule typical examples of corruption in all levels of society. Some examples of corrupt characters are the Prioress, the Monk, the Friar, and the Merchant.
The Prioress, Madam Eglentyne, though not being a royal tries her best to imitate their mannerisms. She indulgently feeds her dogs roasted meat, fine white bread, and milk. Despite being a nun, she wears a gold brooch that says, “love conquers all” in Latin. Nuns take a vow of poverty, yet she tries to emulate the life of a noble woman.
The Monk has also taken a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Monk loves hunting, which is a problem because his monastic order says that hunters are not holy men. he disregarded the opinions of his order and spared no expenses for his hunting hobby. He wore grey fur lined sleeves and a gold pin to fasten his hood under his chin.
the Frere makes his living by begging. He listens to confessions, and gives people who donate money, penances that are easy to do. He also makes acquaintance with innkeepers and barmaids because the feed him, but does not associate the poor diseased people or with beggars. Through his begging he is able to wear rich apparel and live a happy life while others suffer.
The merchant is able to keep of the façade of his lavish lifestyle by borrowing money. He is careful to hide his debt from others.
The purpose of the pilgrimage is to help people get closer to God. The pilgrimage to Canterbury was very popular because the pilgrim road leads the shrine of an English saint named Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop was murdered in his cathedral and legend has it that his blood can cure blindness, epilepsy, and leprosy.
The woman in “The Wife of Bath” has been judge for having many husbands. She challenges the idea of women staying virgins before marriage. She uses her sexual power to control her husbands. She says that the first three husbands were good because they were wealthy, old, and submissive.