The Courtly Characters in The General Prologue To The Canterbury Tales

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The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is a notable literary work by Geoffrey Chaucer. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.


The Courtly Characters in The General Prologue To The Canterbury Tales.

Introduction: The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is a unique creation of the father of English Poetry “Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400). The General Prologue to Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” introduces us to a diverse group of characters from different social classes, including courtly characters associated with the royal court.

The Knight: The Knight is the first character and storyteller mentioned in the General Prologue. He is the embodiment of chivalry and honor. He has fought fifteen mortal battles. He has traveled widely and gained great wisdom and experience. He is a highly respected member of the court. His appearance in the tale emphasizes the importance of the code of chivalry and the ideal of nobility. Chaucer says,

“A KNyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie”

The Squire: The Squire is the son of the Knight and is also associated with the court. He is a young man of twenty years. He is still learning the ways of chivalry and is eager to prove himself in battle. The Squire is very handsome and charming. He has a great talent for singing and playing musical instruments. He represents the ideal of courtly love and embodies the youthful enthusiasm and energy of the court.

The Yeoman: The Yeoman is a servant of the Knight and the Squire. He is also associated with the court. He is a skilled archer dressed in a green tunic and hood. It indicates his connection to the forest and nature. He represents the hunting culture of the court.

The Prioress: In the General Prologue, the Prioress is implied to be associated with the court through her connections to the aristocracy. She is elegant and refined, with good table manners and impressive clothing. Her religious virtue is also emphasized, but her courtly demeanour suggests that she is more concerned with outward appearances and social status than spiritual devotion.

The Friar: The Friar is a religious figure who is also a courtly gentleman. He is described as being,

“ful wel biloved and familier was he
With frankeleyns over al in his contree”

These lines suggest his ability to socialize with wealthy and influential members of society. He is also said to have a “licence of absolution.”

It is the power to forgive sins. These details suggest that the Friar is not entirely devoted to his religious duties but is more interested in socializing and indulging in worldly pleasures.

The Monk: The Monk is another character associated with the court. He is described as being very wealthy and living a luxurious lifestyle. He enjoys hunting and spending time in the company of wealthy and influential people rather than devoting himself to religious meditation. His appearance in the tale highlights the church’s and court’s corruption and worldliness.

The courtly characters in the General Prologue are portrayed as educated, sophisticated, and well-connected to the aristocracy and the royal court. They represent the ideals of chivalry, nobility, and courtly love but the court’s and the church’s corruption and worldliness.