A Literary Analysis of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales is about an unrelated group of twenty-nine pilgrims traveling together on a pilgrimage. One of the major aspects of the journey is the unique diversity of the characters. There are knights, nuns, monks, lower-class tradesman and single women. One of the characteristics that makes Chaucer’s work so convincing is his ability to present characters that have real life qualities. Many women can relate to the Wife of Bath, and many college students can relate to the Squire with his lady friends. The opinions about Chaucer as the pilgrim and as the poet are very different. Chaucer the Pilgrim is the narrator of the tales, and he must give an accurate description of what is going on, even if he disagrees with the character’s action. First Chaucer, the Pilgrim, talks about nature and the seasons. He tells us that he is joined by several people on a journey to Canterbury. He talks about all the people involved in the pilgrimage. First he talks about the knight and then Chaucer talks about the knight’s son, then the Yeoman, the Wife of Bath, the Monk, the Merchant, and the Clerk. Along their journey each character has his or her own tale to tell. The narrator is very descriptive of each of the characters. He makes sure to give full details of each one. The knight in The Canterbury Tales is a important figure and he reflects all of the qualities that a medevil knight should have. The Knight is one of the few characters in The Canterbury Tales who gets a relatively straightforward treatment.

The Knight is described in the Prologue as an experienced fighter who’d distinguished himself on many pilgrimages (lines 45-60) and had fought in some fifteen battles. In addition, he is described as both “worthy and wise” and as “meeke as a maid.” The Knight wears a tunic of coarse cloth (“fustian”) which is stained with rust from the chain-mail he would normally wear. The narrator judges him to be a truthful, completely noble knight. Chivalry is displayed in almost all of the literary works of the Middle Ages. In “The Knight’s Tale,” Chaucer stresses the the characteristics of chivalry and the chivalrous knight. In the prologue, Chaucer describes the knight first in order to tell the reader the importance of the knight on the pilgrimage. Suprisingly, Chaucer does not describe the Knight by his physical appearance, but rather by his virtues. He is described as a worthy man who loves chivalry, truth, honor, freedom and courtesy. In addition, Chaucer describes the Knight as an humble and a excellent character. The Knight in The Canterbury Tales is an ideal figure of Chivalry and his tale is the same. The ideals of chivalry that are describe in the knight are courage, justice, faith and generosity. “The Knight’s Tale,” having so many elements of chivalric practice, is clearly just a reiteration of the description of the Knight from the Prologue. The Knight does not boast of his wonderful journeys and adventures but rather, conveys a story that discusses loyalty, love and Chivalry.

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