1. Explain how the Knight, the Parson and the Plowman are all ideal representatives of the three traditional estates: those who defend (nobility), pray (clergy) and work (peasants). 2. Discuss the...

1. Explain how the Knight, the Parson and the Plowman are all ideal representatives of the three traditional estates: those who defend (nobility), pray (clergy) and work (peasants).

2. Discuss the character of the young knight in "The Wife's Tale." What good qualities are there to set against the bad?

The question from Canterbury Tales. Thank you

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lusie0520 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The Knight is an ideal representative of the nobility.  He shows all the qualities of chivalry expected in someone of his class.  Not only is he brave, “he had proved his worth in his lord’s wars,” but he is also humble.  “Although he was brave, he was also prudent, and bore himself as meekly as a maiden.”  In the case of the Knight, Chaucer lets us know he is the ideal representative by calling him, “a true, perfect, gentle knight.” 

The Parson is an idea representative of the clergy.  In direct contrast to characters like the Friar and the Pardoner, he wants to set an example for the people of his parish.  Instead of cheating them out of their money, he would “rather give…part of his own offerings and property.”  He makes a point to visit all the people in his parish, even the poorest and most humble.  Also, instead of being scornful toward sinners, he was “discreet and benign in his teaching.”  All of these examples contrast with other religious characters who are greedy and take advantage of the sinners in their flocks.

The Plowman is an idea representative of the peasant class.  He works hard from dawn to dusk without complaining.  Chaucer calls him a “good and faithful laborer.”  He is religious and he helps his fellow man without thinking twice.  Chaucer contrasts him with characters such as the Miller, who cheats his customers and tells raunchy stories at the tavern.  The Plowman is not concerned with money, and will help his neighbors.  The Miller, on the other hand, will cheat his customers out of money,

The young knight is “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is, of course, not the ideal chivalrous knight.  He rapes a young woman and is put on trial for this.  Later, in his quest to find out what all women want, he is given the answer by an old woman in return for a promise.  When he finds out what the promise is, he whines and complains, and begs the old woman in a most unchivalrous way not to make him keep his promise.  On their wedding night, he insults her by calling her, “so loathsome, so old, and of low birth.”  None of these actions show the knight to be chivalrous figure he is meant to be.  His only redeeming quality is at the end of the story, after listening to his wife, he decides to allow her all the power in the relationship.  This is when she changes from an old, loathsome woman to a young, beautiful woman.

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