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The pilgrims are on a pilgrimage: this is a journey to a holy place. During medieval times (Chaucer's time) people often would visit shrines or even the Holy Lands for the good of their souls. All the people listed in the Prologue are going to Canterbury Cathedral. This is considered a holy place because Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was killed by King Henry II's men, and became a martyr and saint.
As the pilgrims travel they agree that when they stop for the night at an inn, each will tell a story as a means to entertain the others. Chaucer includes himself among the number of pilgrims, and gives a running commentary as to who is a truly good person, and who is putting on a show for the others.
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