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The Significance of Clothing in The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue Essay

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Throughout The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue, Chaucer’s use of the characters’ clothing, to symbolize what lies beneath the surface of each personality is significant. Chaucer strongly uses the Knight, the Squire and the Prioress’s clothing to symbolize how their personalities are reflected through The Canterbury Tales.
The Knight’s true character is portrayed through his modest apparel. His character is displayed by the way he chooses to show himself in public, which is a noble knight, that is why he wears dirty clothes and chooses to come on the pilgrimage straight from battle. “A Knight there was and that a worthy man, that from time that he first began. To riden out, he loved chivalry. Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy,” (43-46). This quote shows how his humbleness is not warranted because he has the highest social standing out of the other members of the pilgrimage. It clearly demonstrates his morals which are truth, honour, freedom and courtesy. In the Prologue, humbled by his life experiences, the Knight dresses plainly. Garbed in a stained coarse cotton tunic, the Knight sits upon his horse. His armor left dark smudges on his tunic. Seen in a different setting, the Knight's attire would say little about his life as an honorable man. By humbling oneself, a true hero lends credence to the fact that flash is not always needed. Humbling experiences cause people to step back and analyze the fortune they have; they learn that they do not have to wear flashy clothes to have their achievements acknowledged. Sometimes people boast of their success through fine clothing unlike the Knight. “Ne never yet no villainy he said,” (70). This quote shows the Knight is not only humble but is also never rude to anyone. Another ex...


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...). This clearly exemplifies the Nuns personality, by showing how sensitive she wants everyone to think she is. The Prioress’s clothing can limit her expression of her true personality, however, discreet accessories that the Prioress adorns, shows how she wants the attention of those around her. Small subtle things can get the point across as well as the obvious, such as her many items of jewelry.
One's life expectations and desires are masqueraded though the clothing they wear. Often, clothing plays a pivotal role in first impressions. The Knight, the Yeoman and the Prioress all have their personal character traits exemplified through their attire. How people dress often give insight into the real person beneath without spoken words. One can judge a person by their outward appearance, but remember that other complex and interesting layers dwell beneath the surface.


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