Geoffrey Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer created the Canterbury Tales at the end of the fourteenth century as a social satire condemning the estates, or social classes of the time. He criticized the church, the nobility, and the peasantry, which was actually the majority representative. It is crucial to remember that at the time Chaucer was writing, social classes had lost some of their rigidity, so social mobility meant that a person may change his class or estate through action or employment, which had previously been a matter of birth. Hence, most of the characters Chaucer wrote are not exclusively a part of any state, but rather in the middle of the spectrum, as a middle class.

The Critique of the Church

The first estate he criticizes is the Church, made up of the clergy whose essential task is to pray. Parson symbolizes this class who is only concerned with holy work and though unlike other people of the clergy in the writing that move in and out of the state. Parson comes from the lower socio-economic background, with the Church and the clergy as his only focus.

The Critique of the Nobility

The second estate that Chaucer critiques is the nobility which is a class of rich people, including land-owning class and the knights. The essential feature of the nobility is that they spend time protecting the society through battles and spend a lot of time in leisure. The knight symbolizes the estate of the nobility, who is not involved in menial labor for day-to-day earnings, rather is involved in traveling, fighting wars which is considered a glorious task. His tasks are beyond the realm of the common man, and his common life is basically taken care of by the people of the third estate, the ordinary citizen. One of the key points to remember is that unlike aristocracy, a knight is remembered by his glory and not his lineage.

The Critique of the Peasantry

The last estate that is criticized by the author in Canterbury Tales is the third estate, the peasantry. The peasantry is the class made up of ordinary, rather poor people who are existing under a feudal system and are basically laborers who have to work menial tasks for the day-to-day survival. These members work so that the lifestyle of the other two estates, the Church and the nobility, is sustained.

The Plowman

The plowman signifies the third estate, who works extremely hard in the field. One of the characteristics of the plowman is that he is extremely hardworking and on the same side, extremely poor. But he does not complain about his poverty, and it is almost as if he does not have any desire for riches or for him to change his class. He is an obedient person and works so others can profit, and does not have any contentions against this arrangement.

The Emergence of the Middle Class

When this piece was written, the middle class was an emerging phenomenon, a cause of confusion to a lot of people who could not gauge this emergent class that took in a hybridity of forms.

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