Portrayal of Social Classes in The Canterbury Tales

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 624 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Words: 624|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer documented the social and political climate of fourteenth-century England. Using stock characters, these tales show just how turbulent this era in history was. During the 1340s, the bubonic plague decimated England's population. During medieval times and in Canterbury tales, the social classes are royalty, nobility, clergy, merchants, and skilled artisans, and peasantry. He exposes every social layer of his pilgrims and perfectly illustrates how they fail to meet their actual responsibilities. In Canterbury Tales, there are several ways people have different views of society; appearances say many things about a person's character.

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Monks in medieval times helped people by feeding the poor, taking care of people who were sick, wrote books, and provided education to the boys. The monk likes to ride horses, eat, and hunt. These are activities enjoyed by the wealthy and noble classes. Monks made their clothes, farmed, and did chores for the monastery. However, the monk would rather ride horses, hunt day and night, and not worry about doing chores. The monk in the Canterbury Tales views living a modern life in medieval society instead of the role monks typically lead. The monk is described as being fat and personable inline 204. Weight during medieval times was represented as wealth as the poor could not afford to eat enough to be overweight. The monk also enjoyed riding horses and hunting; 'who rode the country hunting was his sport'. Hunting and the owning of horses were a privilege of the wealthy and the noble classes. The monk did not want to follow the rules of the monastery. He is told to be a very good-looking and virile man. Even though a monk's worries ought to be on the needs of the people of his parish, via the detailing of his garments, the reader is right away made aware of wherein the issues of this specific monk lie. His apparel is defined as very lush, which includes 'his sleeves purfiled at the hond/With grys, and that the fyneste of a long' inline 26.

Chaucer's view of the clergy class is not always as effective as his ruling class's view. For instance, Chaucer describes the Prioress/Nun the usage of an extraordinary amount of satire. He speaks of ways the Nun has excellent etiquette and manners. She attempts so hard to be reputable and considered as one with better status. Inline 26, it states, “She took pains to imitate court behavior, to be dignified in bearing and to be considered worthy of respect”. The Prioress, a nun through profession, is visible as a lady, involved with her manner and conduct. Regardless of understanding her responsibilities, Nunthe Nun attempts to appear wealthy. The narrator's fawning description of the Prioress is mocking, emphasizing her fastidious airs and affected mannerisms. She believes she sings nicely. However, she intones indirectly through her nostril. The reality that the Prioress speaks French indicates her preference to undertake a noble lady's behaviors, due to the fact French turned into the language of the court.

Chaucer is honest in his description of the Knight as a noble, chivalrous man, determined to fight for the dignity of God and continuously successful. Unlike many of Chaucer's images, which satirize the figure being proven, Chaucer is authentic in his praise for the Knight. The Knight's stained, modest garments display that he fights appropriately and is not showy or vain.

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In conclusion, Chaucer uses the outer look and behaviors of his characters to mirror their internal selves. Because of the Chaucer Pilgrim attempting to find the best in every traveler, every traveler's apparel and appearance had been vital to tell who everyone genuinely was. Those descriptions drew each positive and terrible image of the general Prologue characters, such as individuals of the lower and middle classes. 

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Portrayal Of Social Classes In The Canterbury Tales. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Portrayal Of Social Classes In The Canterbury Tales.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
Portrayal Of Social Classes In The Canterbury Tales. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Portrayal Of Social Classes In The Canterbury Tales [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Feb 10 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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