The Character of The Host in The Canterbury Tales

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About this sample


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4 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2024

Words: 662|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2024

The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, is a renowned collection of stories. Chaucer, a significant contributor to 14th century literature, narrates the tales of a group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury. The pilgrims are en route to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. To combat boredom and fatigue during the long journey, the pilgrims engage in a story-telling contest. The winner of the contest will be rewarded with a free meal at the Tabard Inn, paid for by the other pilgrims.

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In this essay, I will analyze a specific section of The Canterbury Tales that has been assigned to me. The character highlighted in this passage is the Host, who is addressing the other assembled pilgrims at the Tabard Inn. The Host plays a crucial role in the collection as he conceived the idea of story-telling. Without him, The Canterbury Tales may not have come to fruition. The stories told by the pilgrims revolve around the Host's suggestion.

Chaucer creates his characters by allowing them to express themselves. As the narrator, Chaucer stands apart from the tales and allows them to unfold as told by the various pilgrims. He simply lets the reader know who is telling each story. This is why he uses a third person narrative voice. For instance, in the first line of the passage, Chaucer writes "'lords' said he (the host)...." and continues to quote the Host. He presents the character through his own words. This passage is entirely a quotation of the Host's speech, with the narrator's voice remaining in the background. Chaucer uses this strategy to inform the reader about the Host.

From this passage, the reader gains insights into the Host's character. The Host comes across as a jovial person who despises boredom and seeks to prevent others from experiencing it. This is why he suggests story-telling as a means to "shorten our way on this trip." He also appears as an efficient organizer who can rally people around a cause. He successfully convinces the other pilgrims to partake in the story-telling contest. The Host demonstrates his firmness by warning the pilgrims that anyone who goes against his judgment will have to bear the expenses incurred by the rest of the group. Additionally, he comes across as condescending when he declares that he is responsible for their happiness along the way.

An interesting word used in this passage is "cas" or "case." In the Middle English version, Chaucer writes "that is to seyn, that telleth in this cas." This is translated as "that is to say, whoever tells in this case." What caught my attention is the significance of the final "-e" in Chaucer's writing. It is amusing to discover this aspect in the passage I am analyzing.

There are instances of irony in this passage. It is ironic that pilgrims, on their way to a shrine, engage in gambling by betting on the story-telling contest. Gambling is frowned upon by the church, yet the pilgrims willingly participate in this activity. Furthermore, it is ironic that a free meal is the reward they have chosen. One would expect a more substantial bet than a simple supper at the expense of the others.

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In conclusion, The Canterbury Tales is a collection of tales told by a group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury. The Host, a significant character in the collection, is the one who suggests the idea of story-telling. Chaucer effectively creates his characters by letting them express themselves through their own words. The Host comes across as a merry-making person who abhors boredom and possesses strong organizational skills. The use of irony in the passage adds depth to the narrative. Overall, Chaucer's ability to create multidimensional characters and incorporate humor and irony makes The Canterbury Tales a timeless literary work.

Works Cited

  1. Johnston, Ivans. Introduction to the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales. 2012. Web.
  2. Kolve, Vincent & Olson, Glending. The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue. New York: Norton and Company, 2005. Print.
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The Character of the Host in The Canterbury Tales. (2024, February 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“The Character of the Host in The Canterbury Tales.” GradesFixer, 12 Feb. 2024,
The Character of the Host in The Canterbury Tales. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
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