The Canterbury Tales in a Nutshell

The backdrop to The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas Beckett, one of the most popular pilgrim sites in the whole of Christendom until its destruction by Henry VIII. It consists of a General Prologue, in which Chaucer introduces the fictional characters who are travelling together on the pilgrimage, and a number of tales told by some of these characters. A very ambitious work, it was unfinished at the time of Chaucer’s death in 1400. Although, therefore, we have only fragments of a much bigger work, the fragments are themselves finished tales told by the various pilgrims.  The General Prologue begins with an evocation of resurrected life. It is April, and sweet showers help to bring new life to every wood and field. This sets the scene for the resurrected spirit of people longing to go on pilgrimage. One such group of pilgrims meet by chance at an inn in London and decide to journey together to Canterbury, telling each other stories along the way. We are then introduced to the pilgrims themselves who are a motley group comprised mostly of reprobates who are evidently in need of the grace that a pilgrimage brings.

The Canterbury Tales in a Nutshell

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