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the pilgrims

 

The Knight: I am of the highest social standing of the pilgrims. I am the epitome of chivalry. Chaucer idealizes me. I am always modest and never boorish. I am going to Canterbury to give thanks to God for keeping me safe during all my exploits.

The Squire: I am the son of the Knight and am quite a lady’s man. I am twenty years old and very proud of my appearance. (Some call me a dandy.) I will be a candidate for knighthood. I sing lusty songs, compose melodies, and ride a horse well.

The Yeoman: I am the attendant to the Knight and the Squire. I look like Robin Hood. I am also an expert woodsman and an excellent shot with a bow and arrow.

The Nun (Prioress): I am the first Church figure and the first woman to be mentioned. My Christian name is Madame Eglante. I am a gentle lady – well-educated and well-mannered. I try to imitate the ladies at Court. I am very tender hearted, especially toward animals. I have three hound dogs whom I treat very well. I try never to drop food on my clothes. You can tell from my description that I secretly long for a more worldly life.

Another Nun and 3 Priests: One of these priests told the tale about Chanticleer and Pertelote. The Another Nun was the Prioress’ secretary.

The Monk: Like the Prioress, I am a figure of authority in the monastery. I’m a man’s man who loves hunting, fine food, and fine clothes. I am fat (a sign of affluence), jolly, and bald-headed. I like to be outside instead of studying indoors. Everything that I do is a violation of my monastic order and a contradiction to my religious vows of poverty. I could not be called an ascetic. I try to justify my actions.

The Friar: My Christian name is Hubert. I am an itinerant churchman who raises money to support church-related institutions. I have helped many young ladies get married after I had my way with them. I believe that penance should be made by giving money to the church (me), not through prayer. I can talk you out of your last dollar. I tend to hang out in taverns instead of helping the poor. I am immoral, evil, and cunning.

The Merchant: I am a member of the rich and powerful middle class. I dress well, am shrewd, and I know a good bargain when I see one. What is ironic is that I am actually very much in debt.

The Oxford Cleric: I am a religious student at Oxford. My horse and I are so emaciated that we have been called "hollow" looking. When I get some extra money, I buy books instead of a juicy steak. I’m not a big talker, but when I do, people listen because they respect me. I am one of the most admired people on the pilgrimage.

Sergeant of Law: People today would call me an attorney. I make people think I am wiser than I actually am because I have such a great memory.

The Franklin: I am a large landowner. You could call me an epicurean because I love the best of food and wine. People love to come to my parties.

The Haberdasher, the Dyer, the Carpenter, the Weaver, and the Carpet Maker: We all belong to a craft guild. You’d call it a labor union today. We all dress very well, and we have our own cook. Haberdasher means men’s tailor.

The Cook: I can boil, bake, roast, and fry. My best dish is a creamed chicken pie with white sauce. At this point Chaucer mentions that I have a running sore on my shin. What a kidder! (maybe, maybe not)

The Skipper/Shipman: I am the master of a vessel. I’m huge and uncouth. However, I do know all the ports, and I can read the stars well. I also can fight well, but I can’t ride a horse worth a darn.

The Doctor of Physics: I know all about medicine, astronomy, and nature. But I know nothing about the Bible. I am extremely tightfisted with my money; I love my gold. Some people claim I’m in cahoots with (in league with) the druggist.

The Wife of Bath: Bath is an English resort city, like Hilton Head Island. I am somewhat deaf because my 5th husband hit me (14th c. wife abuse). I am an excellent seamstress and weaver. I have been on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, Bologna, etc. I am gap-toothed which is a sign of luck and that I would travel. You decide if I’m lucky I’ve had 5 husbands! I enjoy a good joke. I give love advicejust think of me as the 14th c. Dear Abby! I’m always first at the alter to give my offerings. I love to wear bright crimson stockings and wrap heavy sashes about my body. I told the story that had the moral that husbands should obey their wives.

The Parson: I am a parish priest. I am very poor, but rich in thoughts and good works. I try to live a perfect Christian life. You could say that I not only "talk the talk," but I also "walk the walk." Chaucer ideally views me as the epitome of a true Christian priest. I stand out among the other worldly, false, and superficial religious leaders on the pilgrimage.

The Plowman: I am the Parson’s brother. I am a small tenant farmer, a peasant. I love God with all my heart. I pay my tithes promptly to the church. Chaucer idealizes me as the true Christian man.

The Miller: I grind wheat into flour. My customers pay me with a percentage of the ground grain. Chaucer infers that I sometimes kept more than my portion. I am big, brawny, and can outwrestle any man as well as a ram. I have a red beard with a hairy wart on my nose. I played the bagpipes as we pilgrims left town.

The Manciple: I am a steward for a law school in London. My main job is to buy their food. I’m not as smart as the law students, but I buy wisely and have been able to put aside a little nestegg for myself.

The Reeve: I manage a large estate. I am skinny with a bad temper my employees are afraid of me. I am efficient and shrewd; thus, my master treats me generously. Like the Manciple, I have been able to put aside a little nestegg for my old age. I used to be a carpenter and I rode last in the group as we began our journey.

The Summoner: I am a churchman who is paid to summon sinners for a trial before the Church court. I have a fiery red complexion with pimples and boils. I have scaley infections around my eyebrows, and my beard looks moth-eaten. Children are afraid of me. I love to eat garlic, onions, and leeks, and to drink strong wine. I use a little bit of Latin to impress people. For a bottle of wine, your summon may disappear. I like to hang out with ladies of questionable reputation. The Pardoner is a buddy of mine.

The Pardoner: My hair is yellow as wax and falls in driplets down my back like rat tails. I have bulging eyeballs like a hare. I have a wallet full of pardons from Rome. Chaucer intimates that I inflate the price and put the difference in my own pocket. The priests would tell the people to buy pardons so their sins would be forgiven. This is an example of religious dogma. I carry around "relics" which I charge people to see. I claim that pig’s bones are the bones of a saint. I claim that I have a piece of the Virgin Mary’s veil and a piece of the sail that belonged to the boat that Jesus was on when he walked on water. You could call me a con man. I have a voice like a goat and love to sing offertories. I have no beard, and Chaucer says he doesn’t know if I’m a mare (female horse) or a gelding (castrated male horse).

The Host: I run the Tabard Inn. My Christian name is Harry Bailey. I am a large, jolly man who likes good company and good stories. I appointed myself as our leader and suggested we each tell four tales apiece. Then we would vote on the best story. The winner would receive a free mean at the Tabard Inn at the expense of the others.

 

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