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Geoffrey Chaucer's the Canterbury Tales

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In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, participants of a pilgrimage to Canterbury tell tales to entertain each other, revealing many aspects of medieval society. Through the double narration it can be seen that the narrator of the Prologue is Chaucer but this pilgrim Chaucer is not the author Chaucer. The pilgrim never describes his own career or social standing, but upon examination, he proves to be a corrupt individual of the upper class.

The tales are not simply a story or a poem, it is an individual speaking about his observations- an oral performance. In the tales that follow, Chaucher (the pilgrim) will impersonate the others, "The wordes mote be cosin to the dede- (Line 742)" so his words must match the action he sees. It becomes a double narration, where Chaucer creates this pilgrim who tells the story of a great pilgrimage to Canterbury. There is no longer a creator of the poem, simply a speaker, a character who has his own characteristics and repeats what he sees. Despite its subtly, these traits expose the pilgrim Chaucer.

Each of the stories in The Canterbury Tales are to be told with the utmost accuracy, suggesting Chaucer's literacy. "Whoso shal telle a tale after a man,
He moot reherce as ny as evere he can
Everish a word, if it be in his charge,
Al speke he never so rudeliche and large;
Or elles he moot telle his tale untrewe,
Or feyne thing, or finde wordes newe." (Lines 731-736)
Chaucer tells us that to repeat another man's tale, one must rehearse it as it is told, every single word, no matter how roughly or broadly he speaks because otherwise the tale will be untrue, filled with invented words. With 30 pilgrims telling two tales each on their passage to Canterbury and two tales each on the return home, that totals to over a hundred tales. To recite these tales exactly as they were told is a near impossible promise- to fulfill it he must be writing notes of some sort, proving him to be a writer and a member...