Week 11–The Prologue, The Knight’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale

“The importance of Chaucer’s tales and their impact on the progress of civil and religious liberty cannot be overstated.  Chaucer’s subtle irony exposes the hypocrisy and corruption of the powerful; his humor sheds light upon common human foibles of pride, vanity, greed, and deceit–helping us see ourselves better.” — Rhea Berg

I LOVE this one 🙂

from The Canterbury Tales: The Prologue, 

Middle English

Geoffrey Chaucer

Here bygynneth the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury.

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
5         Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye
10         That slepen al the nyght with open eye,
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages,
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrymages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes kouthe in sondry londes.
15         And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy, blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke
Bifel that in that sesoun on a day
20         In Southwerk at the Tabard, as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne-and-twenty in a compaignye
25        Of sondry folk by aventure y-falle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrymes were they alle
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed atte beste;
30        And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon;
And made forward erly for to ryse
To take oure wey ther-as I yow devyse.
35         But, nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Me thynketh it acordant to resoun
To telle yow al the condicioun
Of ech of hem so as it semed me,
40         And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne;
And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.


Watch the video below. Please start watching at 9 minutes.

But PLEASE SKIP the portion from almost 14 minutes (DO NOT LISTEN TO the Miller’s Tale) and start listening again at 20 minutes into it. Then you can finish it.

The tales are really interesting; you will like them.


From the General Prologue, please read the descriptions of the following pilgrims. For each pilgrim I want you to summarize the description in a few sentences. Does Chaucer admire them or sarcastically insult them. What do they look like? Are they respectable?

  1. The Knight
  2. The Nun
  3. The Monk
  4. The Oxford Cleric
  5. The Woman of Bath
  6. The Parson
  7. The Miller
  8. The Summoner
  9. The Pardoner


  • Read The Wife of Bath’s Tale 
  • Answer Questions 1-4 and 8 on page 197. Then answer the question on the bottom of the page about whether men understand women. This answer should be at least a paragraph long.


Don’t email it to me!!!  Just bring your work into class, along with the three Chaucer packets, so that we can discuss it all in class on Friday 🙂


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