Each of the Tales
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return. He uses the tales and the descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time.The Tales constantly reflect the conflict between classes. For example, the division of the three estates: the characters are all divided into three distinct classes, the classes being "those who pray" , "those who fight", and "those who work" Women were classified differently. Like men, medieval women were born into the second or third estate, and might eventually become members of the first (by entering the Church, willingly or not). But women were also categorized according to three specifically "feminine estates": virgin, wife and widow. It is interesting to note that a woman's estate was determined not by her profession but by her sexual activity: she is defined in relationship to the men with whom she sleeps, used to sleep, or never has slept. The Pardoner and the Summoner, whose roles apply the church's secular power, are both portrayed as deeply corrupt, greedy, and abusive. A pardoner was a person from whom one bought Church "indulgences" for forgiveness of sins, but pardoners were often thought guilty of abusing their office for their own gain. The Summoner is a Church officer who brought sinners to the church court for possible excommunication and other penalties. Corrupt summoners would write false citations and frighten people into bribing them in order to protect their interests. This Summoner is portrayed as guilty of the very kinds of sins he is threatening...