The premise of The Canterbury Tales is a tale-telling competition between pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. In the General Prologue, the Host introduces the structure: each pilgrim will tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two on the way home. Many of the tales that the pilgrims tell are about competition. In the Knight’s Tale, for example, the climactic battle scene expands an individual competition into a contest between Mars, god…(read full theme analysis)
Friendship can be seen on two scales throughout the Tales: the brotherly connection between two men, and the ties that exist among members of a company. Friendships between knights were an extremely important part of chivalry, or the code of conduct that knights were supposed to follow. In The Knight’s Tale, Palamon and Arcite must choose between their chivalric bond to each other or their rival love for Emelye. For a knight, choosing…(read full theme analysis)
The frame narrative of the Tales itself is religious: everybody is on pilgrimage to Canterbury. But these are not necessarily the most pious pilgrims in the world: for many of the travelers, that the pilgrimage is a tourist expedition rather than a devout religious quest.
The Catholic Church was an enormously powerful force in medieval society, and extremely wealthy. The elaborate, ornate, gilded cathedrals built to enshrine saints’ relics were very costly, and the Church…(read full theme analysis)