The Canterbury Tales: A Literary Masterpiece

The Canterbury Tales: A Literary Masterpiece

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written by the famous English poet and writer, Geoffrey Chaucer. It is considered to be one of the greatest works of medieval literature, showcasing Chaucer’s mastery of storytelling and his deep understanding of human nature. The tales revolve around a group of pilgrims who are traveling to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury.

The pilgrims come from all walks of life, representing a wide range of social classes and occupations. Among them, we have a weaver, a miller, a student, a charlatan, and many others. Each pilgrim has their own unique characteristics and personality, which are revealed in the prologue of the tales. For example, the Knight is described as a noble and honorable man, while the Miller is a vulgar and crude individual.

One of the most memorable characters in the tales is the Wife of Bath, a bold and outspoken woman who has been married five times. She is known for her generous nature and her strong opinions on love, marriage, and religion. Another interesting character is the Friar, a member of the clergy who is supposed to be devoted to his religious duties, but is often portrayed as a cunning and manipulative individual.

Throughout the tales, Chaucer presents a vivid and realistic picture of medieval society, showcasing both the virtues and vices of the different social classes. The pilgrims interact with each other, offering their own tales as entertainment during the journey. These tales cover a wide range of themes and subjects, including love, morality, trickery, and adventure.

Chaucer’s language and style of writing are also noteworthy. He weaves together different dialects and registers of English, creating a rich and diverse linguistic tapestry. He also incorporates Latin phrases and references, showing his extensive knowledge of classical literature and language.

The Miller’s Wife

Love and Indulgence

Alison is a young woman who loves to indulge herself. She often receives donations of furs, gold, and other luxurious items from the knights, friars, and pardoners. She is also not above indulging in the company of other men, such as the wise and veteran weaver, when her husband is away on a pilgrimage. Alison’s lack of temperance and her love for material possessions are evident in her actions and choices.

Transportation and Charlatanism

Alison plays an important role in the transportation of the pilgrims to Canterbury. She is skilled in riding horses and is often seen on her favorite animal, a tall and beautiful steed. Although she is a woman, she carries herself with confidence and is not afraid to take charge. Alison also has a hollow knight that she carries as a symbol of her status as a pilgrim. This knight, along with Alison’s charm and beauty, makes her a favorite among the knights and the monks.

KnightGenerous and honorable
PrioressWore a simple and elegant attire
HostFriendly and jovial
PardonerCarries indulgences and charts
FranklinEnjoyed his food and drink
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Although Alison is a charlatan, she is also a skilled trader and knows how to make the most of her situation. She often exchanges indulgences with the other pilgrims, receiving generous donations in return. Alison’s ability to manipulate and charm others is a key aspect of her character.

The Canterbury Tales Characters

The Knight

  • The Knight is a manly and noble figure who has fought in many battles.
  • He is well-educated and follows a strict code of conduct.
  • Although he possesses great strength and skill in combat, he is also known for his modesty and humility.

The Miller

  • The Miller is a lusty and boisterous fellow who loves to tell tales and enjoys a good chase.
  • He wears a blue coat and a white hood and carries a sword by his side.
  • Some people, however, are critical of his behavior and think he is a bit rowdy.

The Canterbury Tales also features many other interesting characters, such as the Prioress, the Clerk, and the Weaver. Each pilgrim contributes their own unique characteristics and stories to the collection, providing a fascinating look into the lives and thoughts of people from different walks of life during medieval times.

Throughout the text, Chaucer skillfully weaves together the tales of these characters, showcasing their various strengths and weaknesses. Whether it’s the Prioress singing hymns or the Clerk reading books, each pilgrim offers a glimpse into their individuality and background.

As the pilgrims ride on their way to Canterbury, they engage in conversations and engage in friendly competition to tell the best story. The interactions and thoughts of these characters provide insights into the social norms, laws, and religion of the time period.

Overall, the characters in The Canterbury Tales are diverse and representative of different aspects of society. They are flawed and relatable, making the stories they tell even more compelling.

Canterbury Tales Character Chart

The Knight: He is a noble and well-educated man who has fought in many battles. The Knight is chivalrous and good-hearted, and he always follows the code of chivalry. He is a symbol of honor and courage.

The Miller: He is a trader of grain who lacks the status of the Knight but compensates with his loud and boisterous personality. The Miller is a fraud and a thief who carries a sword and a bag of fake flour. He rides a horse and wears boots like a battle veteran.

The Prioress: She is a woman of high status and carries herself with grace. The Prioress wears a nun’s robe and indulgence beads, and she is well-liked by the Queen. However, she lacks the true fidelity of a religious figure, as she wears extravagant furs and carries a small dog with her.

The Reeve: He is a well-educated man who is the manager of a noble’s estate. The Reeve is good at keeping accounts and gives instructions to his apprentices. He thought he was sly and cunning, but he ends up being outsmarted by the Miller. Despite this, the Reeve remains loyal to his master.

The Clerk: He is a student who studies at Oxford. The Clerk is a serious and thoughtful young man who lacks material possessions. He lives a modest life and does not seek wealth or status. The Clerk spends all his money on books and thanks his friends for their donations.

The Squire: He is the Knight’s son and is a young and handsome man. The Squire is a skilled rider and a talented musician. He carries himself with a merry disposition and sings well. The Squire is a favorite among the ladies.

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Throughout The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer presents a diverse range of characters who represent various professions, statuses, and personalities. The character chart above provides a glimpse into the colorful world of Chaucer’s masterful work.

“Canterbury Tales “General Prologue” Character Map”

The Knight

The Knight is a chivalrous and honorable man who has fought in many battles and wars. He carries himself with dignity and embodies the qualities of a true knight.

The Miller

The Miller is a large and brawny man who loves telling crude jokes and stories. He is known for his strength and aggressive nature.

The Prioress

The Prioress is a religious woman who is kind-hearted and compassionate. She is well-educated and carries herself in a dignified manner.

The Wife of Bath

The Wife of Bath is a lively and confident woman who has been married five times. She takes pleasure in fine clothing and is known for her outspokenness.

The Monk

The Monk is a manly and rambunctious figure who enjoys hunting and eating. He does not adhere strictly to the religious norms and rules.

The Friar

The Friar is a jovial and merry man who enjoys socializing and helping others. He takes advantage of his position to gain benefits for himself.

The Franklin

The Franklin is a wealthy landowner who enjoys hosting lavish feasts for his guests. He is generous and well-liked by others.

The Steward

The Steward is a young and full of life individual who takes care of the affairs of a noble household. He is accused of mismanaging the resources under his responsibility.


Arcite is a knight who is accused of treason and imprisoned. He is in love with a woman named Emily and longs to be free.


Palamon is also a knight who is imprisoned with Arcite. He is also in love with Emily and competes with Arcite for her affections.

The characters in “The Canterbury Tales” come from all walks of life and represent different aspects of medieval society. Chaucer’s vivid descriptions and detailed portrayal of these individuals make them come to life in the reader’s imagination.

The Old Woman

The old woman supplies an interesting and unique character in “The Canterbury Tales”. Among the many different pilgrims, she stands out as one of the most intriguing and complex individuals.

Known for her clean and wise appearance, the old woman is often the subject of curiosity among the other pilgrims. Pardoners, carpenters, millers, and even the host of the pilgrimage find themselves having discussions about her, trying to decipher the key to her character.

What makes the old woman so fascinating is her attire. She wears furs and clothing that give her a distinguished and sophisticated look, as if she belongs to a higher class than the others. However, her appearance also brings about a sense of mystery, leaving others wondering about her true identity and background.

Some say she is a well-educated sir, while others believe she is a skilled merchant. Thanks to her privacy and the lack of information she reveals about herself, it is difficult to determine her true occupation and status. However, one thing is for certain – she is not foolish or gullible.

Throughout the tales from various pilgrims, such as the Miller’s Tale or the Wife of Bath’s Tale, the old woman makes wise and insightful comments that show her knowledge and understanding of human nature. Her ability to analyze and critique the stories of others demonstrates her intelligence and keen observation skills.

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The old woman always receives the tales with grace and appreciation, often thanking the storytellers and expressing her admiration for their storytelling abilities. She listens attentively and engages in thoughtful conversations with the other pilgrims, showing her respect for their craft and her desire to learn from their experiences.

Although the old woman remains a mystery, she plays a crucial role in the journey to Canterbury. Her presence adds depth and variety to the group of pilgrims, bringing together individuals from different walks of life and diverse backgrounds. She challenges the stereotypes and expectations society holds and offers a different perspective on the nature of storytelling and human interaction.


Alison’s physical appearance is described as beautiful, with a face that “sings” and eyes that are “hollow” yet enticing. She is often depicted wearing fashionable clothing and shoes, which she uses as a tool of seduction. The text mentions that she also enjoys the luxury of transportation and bathing, further highlighting her sensual nature.

Alison is often associated with the Pardoner, a member of the church who trades pardons for donations. While the Pardoner is known for his fraudulent practices, Alison herself is depicted as a cunning and manipulative character who takes advantage of others for her own gain. However, despite her faults, she is also shown to be a compassionate and caring person, as she pardons the Miller’s thief and carries herself in a courteous manner.

Alison’s role in society is a complex one. On one hand, she is a woman who defies the traditional gender roles of the time by taking charge and exerting her own will. On the other hand, she is still subject to the laws and norms of society, as seen in her interactions with the host and other pilgrims. Her status as a woman also makes her marginalized and subjected to societal expectations.

Alison in Relation to Other Characters

Alison’s interactions with other characters in “The Canterbury Tales” shed light on her personality and place in society. She is often seen talking and exchanging ideas with the clergy, scholars, and other members of the educated class. With the Knight, she engages in a conversation about the French conquest of England, showcasing her knowledge and well-rounded education.

Alison also interacts with animals, particularly her pet owl, whom she cares for and nurtures. This caring nature further adds to her character’s complexity and showcases her ability to connect with others on an emotional level.

Overall, Alison is portrayed as a well-educated and intelligent character who navigates the complexities of her time. She challenges societal norms and expectations, making her a unique and memorable character in “The Canterbury Tales.”


What is The Canterbury Tales about?

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century. It is a frame narrative, where a group of pilgrims tell stories to pass the time while traveling to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury.

Who are some of the characters in The Canterbury Tales?

Some of the characters in The Canterbury Tales include the Knight, the Prioress, the Wife of Bath, the Merchant, the Franklin, the Monk, the Reeve, and the Summoner. Each character represents a different social class or occupation.

What is the character chart for The Canterbury Tales?

The character chart for The Canterbury Tales is a visual representation of the various characters in the collection. It provides information about each character’s social class, occupation, personality traits, and role in the stories.

Who is The Host in The Canterbury Tales?

The Host is a character in The Canterbury Tales who serves as the guide and judge of the storytelling contest. He is portrayed as a friendly and jovial innkeeper who encourages the pilgrims to tell their tales and decides the winner of the contest at the end of the journey.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.