Written in the late 1300s, Geoffrey Chaucer’s masterpiece The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories that reflects the culture and society of the middle ages.
The story is set in medieval England around 1386. It focuses on a group of 29 pilgrims who are traveling to Canterbury in hopes of visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket. Each pilgrim has a different background and represents a different social class. From farmers and merchants to monks, knights, and nuns, each character provides us with a glimpse into medieval English society. The characters of The Canterbury Tales reflect both contemporary and historical knowledge during this time period.
The characters in The Canterbury Tales also illustrate the rigid social hierarchy that existed during this time period. At the top were kings, dukes, and other members of royalty. Below them were their vassals—who held land from their lords in exchange for military service. Then came merchants who traded goods across Europe; craftsmen; peasants; and finally slaves at the bottom rung of society.
Throughout The Canterbury Tales we can see how cultural traditions shaped life in medieval England. Weddings were celebrated with banquets where guests would feast for days on end; music was enjoyed by all classes; plays were popular entertainment for all social classes; hunting was seen as an important pastime for nobles; and festivals such as Easter and Christmas were celebrated with religious ceremonies as well as feasts and singing songs. These activities provide readers with an insight into everyday life during this era.