Free Study Guide for The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer|
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FREE ONLINE BOOK SUMMARY FOR THE CANTERBURY TALES
The Cook accompanying the guildsmen was the best judge of London ale. He was
an expert in his trade. He could roast and boil, broil, fry, make stew
and bake proper pies. It was a shame that he had an open sore on his shin
since he could make the best chicken pie.
The Sea captain was probably from Dartmouth. He could not ride a horse well.
He wore a coarse knee length gown and carried a dagger that dangled from
a cord around his neck. He had been tanned heavily by the summer sun.
He tapped the wine casks that the wine merchant had brought from Bordeaux
while the latter slept. He had no scruples. He knew all about tides and
stream currents, and also about the harbors in Spain and Britain. Nobody
could surpass his navigational skill from Hull to Carthage. The ship he
captained was called "Magdalen".
There was no match for the Physician in the entire world where medicine or
surgery was concerned. He was trained in astrology and was able to cure
his patients by placing their waxen figures in accordance with when a
beneficent planet was ascendant. He knew the cause of every disease -
whether it was hot or cold or moist or dry - and also which humor was
responsible for it. But it was common knowledge that he was in league
with the apothecaries and each worked to increase the otherís profits.
While he was well read in all the medical texts he devoted little time
to read the Bible. His diet was moderate. He had made a considerable amount
of money during the plague and was extremely reluctant to part with it.
Since he prescribed gold in his medicines it can be assumed that he was
especially fond of this metal.
It was a pity that the good Wife of Bath was somewhat deaf but she was an
excellent weaver. There was no woman in her entire parish who could precede
her to the offertory. Her handkerchiefs were of the finest weave and weighed
over ten pounds. She wore fine scarlet stockings and her shoes were supple
and new. She had a bold and handsome face. Chaucer expresses his irony
when he describes her as a respectable woman who had been married five
times and has had numerous affairs in her youth. She knows a lot about
journeys since she had been on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, Bologna,
St. Jamesí shrine in Galicia, and Cologne. She was gap-toothed and rode
on her gentle ambling horse easily. She wore a fine hat as broad as a
shield, a riding skirt around her large hips and a pair of sharp spurs
on her heels. She knew how to laugh and joke in company but her special
skill lay in her knowledge of all the cures for love.
The Parson was very needy man who was rich in saintly thoughts and works.
He was a learned man who devotedly preached Christís gospel to his parishioners.
He was kind, wonderfully diligent and patient in times of adversity. He
did not like to excommunicate anybody for non-payment of tithes but would
rather give his own money to the poor parishioners. His parish was wide
and the houses were far apart but even poor weather couldnít stop him
from visiting the rich and the poor. He set a good example to his parish
by practicing the good deeds that he preached. He didnít hire out his
parish and leave his poor parishioners in difficulty, to run off to St.
Paulís in London to look for an endowment by singing masses for the dead.
Instead he stayed at home and guarded his parish against evil. Even though
he was holy and virtuous, he wasnít contemptuous of the sinners. Rather
he was discreet and kind in his teaching. He taught the Christian lore
but first followed it himself.
The Parson ranks among Chaucerís idealized characters. He is a truly holy
man unlike the lecherous Friar, the gay Monk, the evil Pardoner, and the
corrupt Summoner. His humility, virtuousness and punctiliousness (being
precise and ceremonious) earn Chaucerís unconcealed admiration. He does
not share any of the vices of the clergymen of the medieval age. He sets
a good example to his parishioners and religiously guards his flock against
all evil. The Plowman, his brother, is an honest laborer and a true Christian.
The Plowman was the Parsonís brother. He was a good and faithful laborer and
lived in peace and perfect charity. Chaucer describes him as someone who
loved God with all his heart and at all times and loved his neighbor as
himself. According to Chaucer he would willingly thresh, dig and ditch,
free of charge out of Christian neighborliness. He paid his tithes honestly
and promptly. He wore a laborerís smock and rode upon a mare.
The Miller was a big burly fellow who always won the prize in wrestling. He
was barrel-chested, rugged and stocky. He could break any door by ramming
it with his head. His beard was red and broad as a spade. Moreover he
had an ugly wart on his nose from which a tuft of red hairs protruded
and wide black nostrils. His mouth was as big as a furnace and he was
a loudmouth and jested about scurrilous and sinful tales. He was well
versed in stealing grain and charged thrice the amount, yet he was reasonably
honest. He wore a white coat and a blue hood. He could play the bagpipes
well and led the pilgrims out of town to its music.
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