In Chaucer’s time the church was the established cultural center of British life, and the power and importance of the church outranked even the monarchy. Towns and villages that once grew around lords providing protection now grew up around church and cathedrals. Worshipers traveled to receive sacraments and to indulgences, and to see the relics of holy saints. Men gained social status and education through working their way up through the clergy, and the church provided guidance to the people on all moral and spiritual matters.
At the same time, British society was changing – a new merchant middle class meant that upward mobility was possible for a greater number of people, as was societal influence.
Chaucer’s famous work, The Canterbury Tales, comments on these societal changes. Throughout the text we see the relationship between the classes and their expected behavior, the role of women in medieval society, the importance (and sometimes corruption) of the church through the stories of 29 individuals who are going in a pilgrimage to the cathedral at Canterbury.
Watch the video below for information on how Chaucer used language to make this social commentary.
You have each been given one of four tales: The Prioress’ Tale, the prologue to the Pardoner’s Tale, the Miller’s Tale and the Reeves’ Tale. Watch the videos below for background information on each tale you’ve been assigned. Then click here to access your project over the tale from The Canterbury Tales.