The pilgrims described in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales are divided into three broad classes, which include the nobles, clergy, and those with specific skills. The skilled can be subdivided into landowners, professionals, and laborers. In the portraits that we will see in the General Prologue, the Knight and Squire represent nobility. The Prioress, the Monk, the Friar, and the Parson represent the Clergy. The other characters, from the wealthy Franklin to the poor Plowman, are the members of a profession or a particular skill. The descriptions of these characters are balanced, showing their best and worst qualities. Chaucer?s description allows for various types of criticism that paints a picture of fourteenth century society and social rank of the pilgrims.
The description of the members of nobility is defined in the Knight and his son the Squire. The Knight?s portrait had to start first due to his high status in society.
The Knight is respected by all of the travelers and his description is more one of his profession than of the actual person inside the armor. All his qualities and traits are what one expects from a Knight. The Knight wins the draw, as expected, and has the duty to tell the first tale. This indicates that the host fixed the draw because of the Knight?s social status. The twenty-year-old Squire is the Knight?s son. He is a lusty bachelor and an aspirant to knighthood. The Squire?s curled locks and fashionably short gown embroidered with white and red flowers are appropriate for his role as a romantic figure.
The description of the members of the clergy shows how Chaucer criticized the church. The Monk is a sportsman and enjoys the outdoors. His passion was for the hunt and he despised the thought of being constricted to the seven...