The Canterbury Tales and England’S Context

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  • Category: English
  • Date Submitted: 01/29/2010 01:36 AM
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The Canterbury Tales and England’S Context

The Canterbury Tales and England’s context

Most of the tales are useful to determine how the political, social and religious situation was at the end of the 14th century. The study of this context can be divided into four groups: politico-social, religion, sexuality and administration.

1) The politico-social situation

The Knight’s tale must be the more useful and interesting story to describe the politico-social situation. It’s one of the longest tales. Palamon and Arcite, two knights, fall in love for Emilie, and fight against each other in a tournament for her. At the end, Palamon kills his friend.
It’s interesting to remark that the Knight’s tale is the first tale that is told: the Knight goes first.

But the logical suit would have been the following of the Monk’s tale. Instead of that, the Miller breaks this structure in favour of a free exchange of stories among all participants. Maybe this fracture is revealing of the movement that will breed two centuries later: a crumbling of the social structure, and a more important part of the trade in political life.

However, the social division of Feudal system is still viewable, there are three estates. The characters are all divided into three distinct classes, the classes “who pray” (the clergy), “those who fight” (the nobility), and “those who work” (the commoners and peasantry).

The nobility is represented by the Knight and his Squire. They are directed by a powerful code of chivalry. At this time, knights were paradoxical persons, ruthless and brutal, yet mannerly with women and the King, and also very faithful in Christianity. In the Knight’s Tale, Chaucer wants to show how the two friends brotherly loved each other, and how they fight to the death for a woman they idealised in order to win her. It is strongly possible that Chaucer didn’t like Chivalry, felt that it was tending to disappear, and wanted to show the flaws of such a system.

Political situation at the time of The Tales writing...
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