Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a journey of several pilgrims who leave on Good Friday with the hope of reaching Canterbury, in the middle of England, by Easter. Their hope is to attain forgiveness and to redeem themselves from their sins. Canterbury Tales chronicles a cross section of Medieval society, with thorough descriptions of each and every character. Just like modern day society, these people represent the court, the church, the aristocratic and the commoners.While there are many pilgrims who partake in this journey, there are three that stand out above the rest.
First and foremost, the Knight leads the precession of pilgrims. He was very wealthy but did not flaunt his wealth. The Knight has some of finest looking horses, but did not wear fancy clothing. His simple garb included a long, coarse tunic, with a coat of mail stained with rusty marks due to his armor from his prior expedition. The narrator clearly favors the Knight because he possesses idyllic characteristics of a real man including: honesty, chivalry, fidelity, generosity and courtesy. His military career was very extraordinary, as he had served in 15 battles. While he was a fierce fighter on the battlefield, he had a very mild manner and averts conflict between other characters on the crusade. For example, he moderates an argument between the Host and the Pardoner and orders them to bury the hatchet. His sole motivation for this pilgramage was to show his gratitude to God for surviving all of the wars he fought in.
Wife of Bath
The Wife of Bath was one of only two women on this journey. A seamstress by trade. She is very sophisticated and well traveled. She too is wealthy like the Knight, however she loves to flaunt her wealth with extravagant clothing. She wears leather shoes and her face is wreathed with cloth. Her stockings were a scarlet color, which is indicative of her wealth, as the scarlet dye was made from red beetles, a rarity and only found in a few parts of the world. The Wife of Bath is very smart, savvy and independent although she has been married 5 times. Her feminine wiles are what get her what she wants in life. While she does have the single handicap of being deaf in one ear, she has gap between her front two teeth; something considered very appealing during Chaucer’s era. Also, she is heavily experienced in the art of making love. She uses her body and witholds sexual gratification from her husbands, she is able to obtain what her heart desires as her men acquiesce to her demands.
The Parson is the only one on this list who is dirt poor. But while he lives a life of poverty, his richness comes from being true to his faith and devout to Christ’s word. He preaches truthfully to his parishioners and offers them goods, materials and property. He never cheated any of his churchgoers out of their money and refused to accept it when they offered it to him. The Parson practiced what he preached. His clothing was very modest as you may expect, and he worked with his sheep, then teaches after. If any of his townspeople needed to talk to him, he never neglected them, no matter how far away they lived. Even when he was ill or it was raining, he responded to any request from a person in his large parish. He never acted disdainfully toward those who sinned and simply believed his life was rich by living it for God, his people and the church.