Social Portraits in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales"

“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer, is a richly varied compilation of fictional stories as told by a group of twenty-nine persons involved in a religious pilgrimage to Canterbury, England during the fourteenth century. This journey is to take the travellers to the holy martyr St. Thomas Becket. The device of a springtime pilgrimage provided Chaucer with a diverse range of characters and experiences, with him being both a narrator and an observer. At the beginning of the trip the pilgrims make a deal that each of them has to narrate two stories on the way to the shrine and two on the way back, and then it is up to the innkeeper to decide whose stories are the best and who receives a prize – a fine supper at the expense of the others. However, Chaucer did not finish his work and, consequently, there are less stories than it was originally planned. Nevertheless, author successfully manages to depict the usual characters of Medieval England, some of them being positive and some, what happens in most cases, being negative.
    The pilgrimage was a “democratic institution”, which means that rich and poor, noble and peasant rode side by side and stopped at the same inns. This also means that Chaucer, being among those travellers, could show the variety of people’s natures and behaviour. He starts with the general prologue, where thirty men and women from all ranks of society pass before our eyes. Chaucer draws a rapid portrait of each traveller, thus showing his character.
    Firstly, there is a brave knight who loves truth, honour and generosity. He was in armed expeditions in the Mediterranean, travelled in the North and was even in Russia and he is probably one of the favourite Chaucer’s personages. The knight obviously holds a very respectable reputation, and is treated with much honour and respect. He is a perfect gentleman, showing kindness and understanding to everyone he comes in contact with. The knight is extremely well-mannered, always being on his...