ENGLISH 45A Lecture 2: The Canterbury Tales Prologue Geoffrey Chaucer

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University of California - Berkeley
Steven Justice

English 45A– Lecture 2– The Canterbury Tales Prologue– Geoffrey Chaucer Prologue Summary and context ● Description of the return of spring ○ April rains, flowers, leaves, chirping birds ● People feel to desire to go on a pilgrimage during spring ○ Pilgrims visit holy shrines ○ Or visit relics in Canterbury ● Narrator prepared to go on a pilgrimage to see St. Thomas Becket’s relics in Canterbury Cathedral ● 29 pilgrims, also traveling to Canterbury, entered the inn the narrator was staying at ● Narrator is accepted by the group and ready to join them ● Narrator intends to describe the pilgrims Prologue analysis ● First person narrative, determined by line 20– “I” ● Changes to first person plural– “we”– by line 29 ○ He becomes a member of the group ● Narrator spends a long time describing the wonder of spring ○ Optimist outlook on spring ○ Gives the opening lines a surreal quality ● Dreaminess of spring does not fully align with the seriousness of pilgrimage, which is a journey taken for penance ● Narrator is remembering events as they occurred many years afterwards– he has “tyme and space” ● Descriptions of pilgrims are subjective to both his memory and his individual biases ● Narrator is a mediator between the pilgrims and the audience ○ “You” (lines 34 and 38) ● Narrator makes an effort to be as objective as pos
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