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Analysis Of The General Prologue To The Canterbury Tales Essay

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Religion has long since been an important factor in society, changing and evolving throughout the centuries. In medieval Europe, religious pilgrimages were a crucial part of ones religious faith. Often every one in society, from the highest of class to the lowest order was involved in this practice. Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the most important writers in English literature, was the author of The Canterbury Tales, an elaborate poem about the religious pilgrimage of twenty nine people to Canterbury. In the "General Prologue" Chaucer introduces each individual along for the journey. Through The Canterbury Tales, we discover the hypocrisy and virtues Chaucer narrates in his characters and can appreciate the nuances in this superior piece of literature.
Geoffrey Chaucer, born in London in 1340 began his love affair with literature in his late 20's. Chaucer wrote his first book in 1368, Book of the Duchess and soon after traveled to northern France to serve in the army of John of Gaunt. Chaucer then went through a series of events ware he was eventually named a member of parliament. He began writing The Canterbury Tales in 1387 and was never completely finished. A series of poems he had written before this time were also adapted to fit into The Canterbury Tales, such as Palamon and Arcite which was later adapted as The Knights Tale. Chaucer died on October 25, 1400 and is buried in Westminster Abbey and is believed to be the first person buried in what is known as the "Poets Corner".
The "General Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales is a crucial part of the poem, because it first identifies the reader with the individuals that will be going on the pilgrimage to Canterburry. It narrates the gathering of the pilgrims at the Tabard Inn at ...


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...rey Chaucer comments on moral corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. He criticizes many high-ranking members of the Church and describes a lack of morality in medieval society; yet in the "Retraction," Chaucer recants much of his work and pledges to be true to Christianity. Seemingly opposite views exist within the "Retraction" and The Canterbury Tales. However, this contradiction does not weaken Chaucer's social commentary. Rather, the "Retraction" emphasizes Chaucer's criticism of the Church and society in The Canterbury Tales by reinforcing the risk inherent in doing so.

Works Cited
Hinckley, Henry B. Notes on Chaucer. New York: Haskell House, 1964.
Ingraham, Andrew, ed. Chaucer's Prologue to the Book of the Tales of Canterbury.
London: The Macmillan Company, 1905.
Owen, Charles A., ed. Discussions of the Canterbury Tales. Westport:
GreenWood, 1978.


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