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Fourteenth Century Society in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales Essays

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Nothing gives us a better idea of medieval life than Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Written in the late fourteenth century in the vernacular, it gives us an idea of the vast spectrum of people that made up the different classes within society. The poem describes the knightly class, the clergy, and those who worked for a living, thus describing the different classes as well. Chaucer gives us a cross-section of fourteenth century society by giving us the small details of people’s clothing, demeanor and professions; therefore giving us information on the lower and middle classes, not discussed in literature before.
Geoffrey Chaucer survived The Black Death’s peak at around age six, where twenty percent of England’s (about fifty percent of Europe’s) population quickly died within a span of five years. He was born into a prosperous wine merchant family, who was wealthy enough to send Chaucer to be a page to another wealthy family as a child and to receive an education. During his lifetime he held many different types of titles and professions allowing him to meet many different kinds of people within the social classes, probably giving him the background information for making the wide array of characters found in The Canterbury Tales. This story, in which many people from every aspect of fourteenth century society happen to meet at this inn in Southwark and travel the last sixty miles together on a pilgrimage to shrine of Christian martyr, Thomas Becket, in the Canterbury Cathedral. “Medieval Christians believed that a pilgrimage to a holy shrine was of particular spiritual benefit” (Spielvogel 272). They believed that by making the long journey and visit a shire it would bring them closer to God and their entrance into Hea...


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...s part in society. From the knightly, more higher class, to the lower and middle classes of the clergy and the kinds of people who worked. Without these poems, these people would have never been written about and the small unique jobs found in the medieval ages would never be learned about.


Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Lawall 1701-1769.
Field, Richard. “Life Expectancy.” business.ualberta.ca 2002. 18 Apr 2011. .
Freudenrich, Craig Ph.D. "How Knights Work" HowStuffWorks.com 22 Jan 2008. 18 Apr 2011. HowStuffWorks.com. .
Lawall, Sarah, ed. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. 8th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.
Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization. 6th ed. Belmont: Thomson Higher Education, 2006.


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