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Encyclopedia > General Prologue
The first lines from the General Prologue at the openng folio of the Hengwrt manuscript. Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
The first lines from the General Prologue at the openng folio of the Hengwrt manuscript.
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

The General Prologue is the assumed title of the series of portraits that precedes The Canterbury Tales. It was the work of 14th Century English writer and courtier Geoffrey Chaucer. The conceit of the poem, as set out in the 858 lines of Middle English which make up the general prologue, is that of a religious pilgrimage. Chaucer is in the Tabard Inn, and meets a motley crew of middle class folk from all around England. Coincidentally, they are all on the way to Canterbury, the site of the Shrine of Saint Thomas à Becket. He seeks to describe their 'condition', their 'array', and their social 'degree': Opening folio of the Hengwrt manuscript . ... Opening folio of the Hengwrt manuscript . ... The opening folio of the Hengwrt manuscript contains the beginning of the General Prologue. ... Canterbury Tales Woodcut 1484 The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century (two of them in prose, the rest in verse). ... This 14th-century statue from south India depicts the gods Shiva (on the left) and Uma (on the right). ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The term writer can apply to anyone who creates a written work, but the word more usually designates those who write creatively or professionally, or those who have written in many different forms. ... A courtier is a person who attends upon, and thus receives a privileged position from, a powerful person, usually a head of state. ... Chaucer: Illustration from Cassells History of England, circa 1902. ... Middle English is the name given by historical linguistics to the diverse forms of the English language spoken between the Norman invasion of 1066 and the mid-to-late 15th century, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London-based English, began to become widespread, a process aided by the... The Tabard Inn, Southwark, around 1850 The Tabard was established in the medieval period on Borough High Street in Southwark. ... In traditional Christian iconography, Saints are usually depicted as having halos. ... Saint Thomas à Becket (or Thomas Becket) (ca. ...

To telle yow al the condicioun
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne;

While the genre of the Canterbury Tales as a whole is a "frame narrative," the General Prologue constitutes an example of "Estates Satire," a genre which satirizes the corruption that occurs within the three Medieval social Estates (clergy, nobility, and peasantry).


The pilgrims include: a knight, a squire, a yeoman, a prioress, a second nun, the nun's priest, a monk, a friar, a merchant, a clerk, a sergeant of law, a franklin, a haberdasher, a carpenter, a weaver, a dyer, a tapestry weaver, a cook, a shipman, a doctor of physic, a wife of Bath, a parson, a plowman, a miller, a manciple, a reeve, a summoner, a pardoner, the host and a portrait of Chaucer himself. A canon and his yeoman join the pilgrimage later and tell one tale. The Knights Tale is the first tale from Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Squires Tale is a tale in Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Canons Yeomans Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ... The Prioress Tale follows The Shipmans Tale in Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... Told by a nun concerned only with spiritual matters, this tale is focuses on the woman now known as Saint Cecilia. ... The tale of Chanticleer and the Fox is a beast fable popularised by the 14th century Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. ... The Monks Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ... The Friars Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, told by Huberd the friar. ... The Merchant The Merchants Prologue and Tale is one of Geoffrey Chaucers Canterbury Tales. ... The Clerks Tale is the first tale of Group E in Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Man of Laws Tale is the fifth of the Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer (1387). ... The Franklins Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ... This is a tale from Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Shipmans Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ... The Physicians Tale is one of the Canterbury Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century. ... The opening page of The Wife of Baths Tale from the Ellesmere manuscript of The Canterbury Tales, circa 1405-1410. ... This is the last tale from Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Millers Prologue and Tale is the second of Geoffrey Chaucers Canterbury Tales, told by a drunken miller to quite The Knights Tale. ... The Manciples Tale is part of Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Reeves Prologue and Tale is the third story to be told in Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Summoners Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ... The Pardoners Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales. ... Chaucer: Illustration from Cassells History of England, circa 1902 Chanticleer the rooster from an outdoor production of Chanticleer and the Fox at Ashby_de_la_Zouch castle Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. ... The Canons Yeomans Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ...


After a classically poetic, highly amorous introduction, which describes the renewed reproductive energy of Spring, after a long winter, Chaucer introduces the first pilgrim, the 'perfect, gentle Knight.' This crusader had travelled the length of Europe to the borders of Asia Minor defending his religion. The highest ranked of all the pilgrims; he is followed by portraits of the members of his retinue. His son, the Squire, 'loved hotly,' and had pressed curls in his hair. He is the personification of the springtime vigour and sexual energy Chaucer embraces in his introduction, and it is this energy he seeks to highlight even in his less attractive pilgrims.


There follows short descriptions of many of the other pilgrims containing details on how they are dressed, the horses they ride and often sly digs at their personalities. Some of the people in the prologue have descriptions but no tale assigned to them whereas characters such as the second nun are not described. Directly after mention of the second nun it says and preestes thre but this causes problems with line 24 which says that twenty-nine pilgrims set out and there is only one nun's priest. It is assumed a short portrait of the second nun and the priest would be included by Chaucer in a later amendment.


The portraits of the characters are one of the distinguishing parts of the Tales as they have far more life and depth than most other characters in literature at this time. Not only does Chaucer describe the pilgrims' clothing he also puts in details about their physiognomy, a familiar short-cut for medieval people in understanding a character. Appearance was linked to the balance of the four humours within a person and so the Reeve's choleric humour is shown in his tall, slender nature and suggests his likelihood to become quarrelsome. Physiognomy (Gk. ... The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Choleric is a temperament in the ancient medical theory of the four humours. ...


Chaucer's satirical asides directed at these people are more muted than what was typical in contemporary stories. Similar characters at that time were often savagely attacked by their narrators leaving a character little more than a cipher. When Chaucer does attack his characters it is usually done by one of the other protagonists between tales and frequently with not quite the obvious clichés. Only Hubert the Friar and Eglentyne the Prioress are given names during the prologue although others are named later. The general prologue seems deliberately disorganised implying the same sort of confused rabble that have set out that April day. Satire is a literary technique of writing or art which principally ridicules its subject (individuals, organizations, states) often as an intended means of provoking or preventing change. ...

  • Read "The General Prologue" with interlinear translation at Harvard
  • A side by side translation with modern English version in iambic pentameter
  • 15th century pictures of Chaucer's pilgrims from the Ellesmere manuscript
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
The Canterbury Tales/General Prologue


The beginning of The Knights Tale from the Ellesmere manuscript. ... Image File history File links Wikisource-logo. ... The original Wikisource logo. ...

Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales
General Prologue | The Knight's Tale | The Miller's Tale | The Reeve's Tale | The Cook's Tale | The Man of Law's Tale | The Wife of Bath's Tale | The Friar's Tale | The Summoner's Tale | The Clerk's Tale | The Merchant's Tale | The Squire's Tale | The Franklin's Tale | The Physician's Tale | The Pardoner's Tale | The Shipman's Tale | The Prioress' Tale | Chaucer's Tale of Sir Topas | The Tale of Melibee | The Monk's Tale | The Nun's Priest's Tale | The Second Nun's Tale | The Canon's Yeoman's Tale | The Manciple's Tale | The Parson's Tale | Chaucer's Retraction
Other works
The Book of the Duchess | The House of Fame | Anelida and Arcite | The Parliament of Fowls | Boece | The Romaunt of the Rose | Troilus and Criseyde | The Legend of Good Women | Treatise on the Astrolabe
Preceded by:
none
The Canterbury Tales Succeeded by:
The Knight's Tale

  Results from FactBites:
 
Prologue - Search Results - MSN Encarta (159 words)
Prologue (Greek prologos), in drama, an opening speech, usually in verse, spoken by one of the actors to introduce the play.
Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale from The Canterbury Tales
Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer
General Prologue - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (640 words)
The first lines from the General Prologue in the opening folio of the Hengwrt manuscript.
The General Prologue is the assumed title of the series of portraits that precedes The Canterbury Tales.
The general prologue seems deliberately disorganised implying the same sort of confused rabble that have set out that April day.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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