Within the collection of tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer called The Canterbury Tales, there is a diverse range of characters. The work follows twenty-nine storytelling pilgrims that are on a journey to Canterbury. During their trip, they all tell stories which reveal parts of themselves. These pilgrims are from all parts of society and social classes. Although Chaucer was a member of the merchant class, his experiences throughout his life allowed him to write about many parts of society such as the upper class, clergy, middle class, and peasants.
The upper class is presented through The Knight’s Tale which is a romance story. In it, the courageous Knight uses Chivalry in order to win over a woman. However, he ends up becoming injured and ultimately having to make a noble choice. This is shown in, “Emily is the prize Arcite wins the tournament, but, as he lies dying after being thrown by his horse he makes a noble speech encouraging Palamon and Emily to marry” (Chaucer 282). The noble action of letting Emily marry another man after his death follows the societal beliefs that Chaucer noticed were present within the aristocrats.
Another social class that is present in Chaucer’s stories is the clergy class which is apparent in The Pardoner. This follows a man who works for the church and helps to relieve people from their sins. However, in reality, the man is hypocritical and corrupted. For example, “He that his hand wol putte in this mitayn, He shal have multipliyng of his grayn What he hath sowen, be it whete or otes, So that he offre pens, or elles grotes” (Chaucer 331). The clergyman is trying to sell a magic mitten to grow crop faster. This is a scheme in which people are cheated. In addition to this, his story discloses more about the corruption within the church and ultimately shows how the clergymen were at this time.
The next social class is the middle class which is evident in The Wife of Bath. The main character in this story is a woman who is identified as middle class because she is a merchant that makes clothes. “Of cloth-making she hadde switch an haunt, / She passed hem of Ypers and of Gaunt” (Chaucer 272). In the beginning, she appears to be a devoted Christian who goes on pilgrimages often. However, it later comes that she actually goes on these pilgrimages in order to sight see. This is a simple example of how she is in fact a selfish women who also believes she is supreme. Her behavior of being materialistic and selfish is what Chaucer discovered to be stereotypical of the middle class through his experience.
Lastly, the peasants or lower class are shown through The Miller. The way the story is presented is considered to be from an uneducated point. For instance, “He knew nat Catoun, for his wit was rude” (Chaucer 285). In this, he appears unintelligent because he called John’s wit stupid. The story shows the belief Chaucer had about the education of the lower class.
Throughout Geoffrey Chaucer life, he experienced a broad variety of people from many social classes. It is these experiences that have allowed him to write in vivid detail the different characters in the story. He wrote about a chivalrous Knight, a corrupt clergy, a middle class women, and an unlearned peasant. Ultimately, it was his encounters that led to the extreme accuracy within The Canterbury Tales.