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The Importance of Social Class Exposed in The Canterbury Tales Essay

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Social class was the foundation of everyday life during the Middle Ages. Social class played a significant role in the lives of medieval people. The aristocracy class and the immoral lower class were often viewed by society as practically different races. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer shows the wide variance among the classes in every aspect of their daily lives. The zeitgeist of the Middle Ages can be seen through his illustration of differences between classes in moral behavior, economic power, the autonomy and education of women during the Middle Ages.
In today’s society the differences in morals between the rich and the poorer classes are virtually non-existent, but during Medieval times “morals and, above all, the virtues at its center, played an important role not only for distinguishing between good and bad, but, more importantly, even for the structuring of society” (Virtus 1). The aristocracy class and the immoral poor class had morals but how they demonstrated them varied; the aristocratic class used chivalry as the basis of their morals, while the immoral poor class did not. Chivalry was not only a code of conduct for those who followed it; chivalry was a way of life. ‘Chivalry first arose in Europe during the Crusades. Chivalry dealt with loyalty honor, and service to women on and off the battle field’ (“The Medieval Period: 1066-1485” 76). The Knight in The Canterbury Tales is the perfect example of someone who follows the code of chivalry. Chaucer describes him with much admiration as “a most distinguishable man, who from the day on which he first began to ride abroad had followed chivalry, truth, honor generousness and courtesy” (Chaucer, "The Prologue." 117). While Chaucer praises the knight for ...


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Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Trans. R. M. Lumiansky. New York: Washington
Square Press, 1971. Print.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Prologue.” The Canterbury Tales. Trans. Nevill Coghill. Literature:
The British Tradition. Ed. Roger Babusci et al. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1994.
115-136. Print.
“The Medieval Period: 1066-1485.” Literature: The British Tradition. Ed. Roger Babusci etal. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1994. 69-79. Print.
"The Middle Ages: Feudal Life." Learner.org. Annenberg Foundation, 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2012.
Virtus: Moral Limitations of the Political Sphere in the Middle Ages. Thesis. Bielefeld Universit. Silke Schwandt: Bielefeld University. Print.
Wheelock, Stephanie. Advanced English 12: Humanities. Eden Prairie High School. Eden Prairie. March 2012. Class discussion.


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