Home > Q&A > Literature > What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales?
Cite this
Q

What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales?

A

Chaucer’s professional life made him not only worldly and sophisticated but also disappointed with corruption and moral failures. He chose fine literature to channel his views and made pilgrims his audience after going into exile.

Detailed answer:

The Canterbury Tales is a beloved medieval literary work written in Middle English. Since it was written centuries ago, it is pretty hard to understand the motives behind its creation. Yet, if we study the author’s biography, we can make some logical conclusions. There is little consensus about what Chaucer’s life was like as there are too many accounts. However, we can set some facts straight. The man behind The Canterbury Tales was a prodigiously busy man. First, he served as an esquire to King Edward III. There, Chaucer took care of a variety of practical and ceremonial duties and traveled a lot as a diplomat. Well, now it is easy to understand what made the writer so worldly and sophisticated.

Then, there was a weird turn of events, and Chaucer had to take a partisan post in customs. To say that the work was hard is to say nothing at all. The author spent hours upon hours on the waterfront and took care of record-keeping. Chaucer was certifying the honesty of customs collectors, some of whom had a very influential status in English society of that day and age. For example, Nicholas Brembre was a long-term mayor of London. Today, managing wool shipments may not sound like a big deal. But you need to make adjustments to the realities of medieval England. In the 14th century, one-third of the total revenues of the realm were wool duties. So, Chaucer had a lot at stake, and any mistake would be very costly.

What trumps it all, though, is having to handle some of the shrewdest traders of the land. Wool shippers and wool profiteers did not shy away from taking advantage of their positions. As you can imagine, they did so at public expense. Could Chaucer intervene? Hardly so. He had to do what he was told while traders were pulling all kinds of sketchy deals. In contrast, the writer himself did not benefit much from his job. But what is much more valuable is Chaucer’s exposure to people from all walks of life. He also saw human faults and vices up close. Maybe all these encounters inspired the writer to create satirical tales revealing the social ills of medieval England. His writing would compensate for his need to stick to his duties and never express an opinion at work.

Chaucer only wrote in scant hours outside work. But he enjoyed sharing his poems with the audience. And in London, he was not short on listeners. Unfortunately, pretty soon, King Edward got way too unpopular, and Chaucer’s patron, Nicholas Brembre, faced prosecution. Though innocent, Chaucer had to give up his seat in the parliament and the job on the waterfront. He went into a voluntary exile, which was not the worst outcome. However, the writer lost his audience and risked remaining unheard forever.

It was in exile that Chaucer came up with The Canterbury Tales. In the prologue, the writer makes up an audience of Canterbury pilgrims. Each has a description with details of their background, clothing, likes and dislikes, and physical features. Sure, the characters only exist within the boundaries of his work. However, they are a diverse group of attentive listeners and passionate storytellers. Their tales range from religious to secular, from serious to humorous, and from didactic to lewd. But they all give voice to Chaucer’s views on English society.

Answer's rating:

IvyPanda
IvyPanda
Answered by IvyPanda
One of our experts with a specialization in Literature has kindly provided an answer to this question. Feel free to rate the answer and let us know if you liked it.

Cite This page

Select a citation style:

Reference

IvyPanda. (2021, November 23). What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales? https://ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-purpose-of-the-canterbury-tales/

Reference

IvyPanda. (2021, November 23). What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales? Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-purpose-of-the-canterbury-tales/

Work Cited

"What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales?" IvyPanda, 23 Nov. 2021, ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-purpose-of-the-canterbury-tales/.

1. IvyPanda. "What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales?" November 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-purpose-of-the-canterbury-tales/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. "What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales?" November 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-purpose-of-the-canterbury-tales/.

References

IvyPanda. 2021. "What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales?" November 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-purpose-of-the-canterbury-tales/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales'. 23 November.

Check the price of your paper