Social Class In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

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Geoffrey Chaucer spent most of his life doing what he should not have done: jump between social classes. In a time of almost no social climbing and escaping one’s class from birth, the author toed the line between the nobility and the common laypeople through his work in the King’s personal household and a customs agent for the port of London. Born into the newly-emerged beginnings of a middle class, his occupations gave him unparalleled access to those he should not have had access to. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales acts as an in-depth study of British social classes in the second-half of the 14th century. With quite the cast of characters, ranging from the Knight to the Cook and the Wife of Bath, all tied together by religious piety— a guise for some, true passion for others— Chaucer reveals the inner workings of each pilgrim. Added to the equation is Chaucer the narrator, different from Chaucer the poet, who inserts his own, not so objective, observations into his descriptions of his fellow travelers. What first appears as gentle chiding soon reveals deeper truths about the group members’ motivations. Chaucer includes the Prioress, including other religious figures, to highlight the discrepancies between what a devout Christian should be and how he or she truly acts. Chaucer began writing The Canterbury Tales with plans for each pilgrim, plus the Host, to tell two stories on the way to Canterbury Cathedral, the murder scene of Saint Thomas Becket. With a total of 120

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