CHARACTERS / PILGRIMS
THE HOST – HARRY BAILLY
He is the owner of the Tabard Inn and volunteers to accompany the Pilgrims
as arbiter over their tales. He has suggested that they have a competition in story telling in order for their Pilgrimage to be more entertaining.
He represents the most distinguished member of the party. He is the epitome of chivalry, truth and honor, and his story reflects this. He has been a true and faithful servant of
the King and has carried out numerous feats of courage in distant lands.
It should be noted that all the battles referred to by the Knight are
religious wars, and he is a true Knight of Christendom.
Chaucer describes him as follows:-
“The Miller was a stout carl, for the nones,
full big he was of brawn, and eek of bones
that proved weel, for over-al there he cam,
a wrestling he wolde have alwey the ram.
He was short-sholdred, brood, and thikke knarre,
ther was no dore that he nolde heve of barre,
or breke it, at a renning, with his heed.”
‘for the nones’ – for the occasion
‘eek’ – also
This gives an idea of the way in which Canterbury Tales was written. I have provided some of the meanings.
To sum up, the Miller was a vulgar, drunken man who at least gives the
company warning that his tale will be shocking.
One of the oldest members of the group, he is very cantankerous and is upset by the Miller’s tale, as he was once a Carpenter.
THE MAN OF LAW
He was a gifted lawyer and is sometimes known as the Sergeant of Law. He was renowned for his photographic memory because he could recite every judgment recalling all punctuation and
every word. In contrast to the Miller, he was well cultivated and respected.
Roger was the master of his art.
He could put together tasty dishes from limited ingredients. The only off-putting feature was the running sore on his face, which oozed pus and happened to be the same color as the sauce on his crude chicken pie.
THE WIFE OF BATH
Alisoun was a colorful member of the group who loved to wear bright scarlet stockings.
She was past her best, being short of quite a few teeth and deaf, but she had had five husbands, the last being half her age. She is a rarity in Medieval England, being a woman who enjoys her independence and freedom. Despite her open sexuality, she has been on many Pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, Cologne and others. She clearly loved the company on the road to Canterbury, and she was an expert horsewoman.
Hubert was a typical merry Friar who didn’t let his habit stop him enjoying the vices of life.
He would often seduce young girls and then arrange marriages for them. He was more at home in taverns and inns rather than in poor-houses or leper colonies. He never seemed to be short of money and was always ready to pardon people once he had received suitable payment.
He was employed by the Church Court to summon sinners for Trial.
He was as ugly as his profession, being covered in boils and infected skin. He sported an unkempt beard and seemed to live on a diet of garlic, onions and strong wine. Chaucer also notes that he was acquainted with whores.
Liked by all the Pilgrims, he was a conscientious student at Oxford University. Any money he obtained he spent on books, and like his horse, he was extremely thin.
As you might expect, this man knows a good bargain when he sees it. He occupies the middle position of the social strata of the Pilgrims, but he is clearly on the way up, and there is
no doubt that he will become a wealthy man.
He aspires to be a Knight and is a talented young man, being adept in singing, writing poetry, horse-riding and wooing ladies.
He is also somewhat vain and is continually looking after his curly hair.
The Franklin is another name for a large landowner not of noble birth.
He is an amiable man and clearly enjoys the company regardless of social position. He was well liked by the other Pilgrims.
A large vulgar man who was no doubt skilful at steering a ship and navigating strange waters, he looked ill at ease on his horse.
Madame Eglantine was a very well educated gentile lady. She wore a gold brooch inscribed in Latin, “Amor vincit omnia” – Love conquers all. She was very meticulous, especially
when eating, and her manners were impeccable. She was accompanied by three small dogs.
Chaucer tells us that this is a lady who, by accident, is a Nun, but never lets anyone forget that she is a lady first. We suspect that she would prefer a more worldly life.
This doctor has a broad knowledge of medicines, potions and drugs, and is also an astrologer. He seems to know more about medical journals than the Bible. He is quite wealthy,
and advises that he made his money in the form of gold during the great plague.
Most of the characters are quite straightforward, but Chaucer describes the Pardoner as being the most complex of the Pilgrims. He is a Church Official who has authority from Rome to
sell Pardons and Indulgences to those charged with sins. Chaucer is making comment regarding the corruption that was rife in the Church. Apparently the Pardoner is fresh returned from Rome with a bag
full of Pardons that he will sell at a profit to the ignorant and superstitious.
Again we describe this man as a Monk only very loosely. His occupation was to take charge of properties associated with his Monastery. He owned several horses and seemed to take
full advantage of his position, indulging in hunting, eating, and dressing in fine clothes. As you might expect, he resembled Friar Tuck, being fat, jolly and bald.
Although Chaucer does not comment directly about any of the characters, we learn that the Monk has violated all of his monastic orders by ignoring his religious vows and living life to the full.
THE NUN’S PRIEST
He accompanies the Nuns and his main task is to hear their confessions.
THE SECOND NUN
In contrast to the other Church representatives, she is very devout and perhaps needs Becket’s blessing less than the rest of the Pilgrims.
THE CANON AND THE YEOMAN
The Yeoman is the servant of the Canon, and boasts that his master has many tales to tell, but the Canon retires, leaving the Yeoman to tell his story.
He is a Steward for a Law School in London, and he was given the task of purchasing the food. He is a clever man, although not learned like the Lawyers at the school, but he has been able to acquire reasonable wealth.
Like the Second Nun, he too is a devout and religious person, and provides the final tale of the company in the form of a sermon. He is a true Christian and gives what money he has to
Other Members of the Group who do not contribute a story
The Carpet Maker