The Canterbury Tales

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Clothing and Appearance Symbol Analysis

Clothing and Appearance Symbol Icon
What the pilgrims wear is often a very important sign of their characters. Outward appearance indicates who one is in medieval society. The Knight’s armor is stained from battle, indicating that he not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. The Prioress wears fussy, heavily ornamented clothes, showing that she is more preoccupied with her earthly appearance than her devotion to God. Similarly, the Friar is supposed to be a poor beggar, yet he wears rich clothes. The red clothing that the Wife of Bath wears signifies her lusty nature. An overemphasis on clothes and physical appearance usually indicates the hypocritical nature of that vain pilgrim.
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Clothing and Appearance Symbol Timeline in The Canterbury Tales

The timeline below shows where the symbol Clothing and Appearance appears in The Canterbury Tales. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
General Prologue
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...modest and meek as a maid. He never speaks ill of anyone. He wears modest clothes, and his mail is stained with rust. (full context)
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The Squire, says the narrator, wants to find favor with his lady. His tunic is embroidered with flowers, as if he had gathered a meadow and sewn it to... (full context)
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The only servant the Knight has with him is the Yeoman, who wears a green hood and coat. The Yeoman takes great care of his bow and sharp, keen peacock arrows.... (full context)
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The Prioress wears a wimple draped to show off her well-formed nose, gray eyes, and small red mouth. The narrator... (full context)
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...Monk is a good horseman and rides along with a pack of swift greyhounds. His sleeves are trimmed with expensive squirrel fur, and his hood is fastened with a gold pin... (full context)
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...behaves not like a cloistered cleric but like a master or pope, donning an expensive cloak and frolicking. This friar, whose name is Hubert, also has a lisp. (full context)
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...with a forked beard is also among the company. He is dressed in a multicolor cloak, fur hat, and boots. He speaks slowly, weighing the profit of expressing his opinions. He... (full context)
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The Clerk is an Oxford University student, thin and dressed in threadbare clothes. He would rather have books than fine clothes or money. Though he is a philosopher,... (full context)
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...little about the Bible. The Physician practices moderation in his diet. Though he wears taffeta robes, he saved much of what he earned: gold is the best medicine, the narrator says,... (full context)
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...she wraps her head in scarves that the narrator says must weigh ten pounds. Her stockings are as bright red as her face. (full context)
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...other foreign pilgrimage sites. She is gap-toothed; sits easily on her horse; and wears a wimple, an overskirt over her broad hips, and sharp spurs. The Wife of Bath gives excellent... (full context)
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...hay for Christ’s sake and always pays his tithes fully; he wears a loose workman’s tunic and rides on a mare. (full context)
The Knight’s Tale
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As Theseus is riding into Athens, he sees a group of women in black clothing weeping and wailing by the side of the road. He asks them why they are... (full context)
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...and Palamon. Though both are badly wounded, they are not quite dead yet. By their coat of arms , the scavengers can tell that they are of royal Theban blood. Theseus proclaims that... (full context)
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...He looks in the mirror and realizes he has become so thin that he can disguise himself as a poor laborer and therefore have the chance to see Emelye every day. (full context)
The Wife of Bath’s Prologue
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...whom the Wife of Bath gossiped with. The Wife of Bath wears her special red robes to the house. When she first meets Jankyn, she is still married to her fourth... (full context)
The Tale of Sir Thopas
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...battle. First, he eats sweets, and then he puts on layer after layer of fine clothes and armor. (full context)