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The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer
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Describe the middle ages considering: role of religion, emergence of the middle class, chivalry and feudalism in the prologue of the Canterbury Tales. It should be about the Mideval time period and use the characters to support the information. The pilgrims of Canterbury Tales prologue present a well-rounded picture of the mideval time period. Describe the middle ages considering: role of religion, emergence of the middle class, chivalry and feudalism.

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Chaucer's Canterbury Tales present a vivid portrait of life during the Middle Ages.  Society basically consisted of three parts working together.  The nobility was responsible for controlling the law of the land, the Church for the spiritual well-being, and the commoners for the labor to provide for physical needs.  This structure eventually started to separate into more levels, though.

The economy was changing.  Instead of being based on agriculture, there were opportunities for trade.  The feudal system was being replaced by this new system based on actual money.  This allowed the emergence of the middle class.  One example from The Canterbury Tales is the Merchant. 

At the same time, there were fewer battles to fight.  Instead of actual battle, nobility began to engage in mock battles and tournaments.  Chivalry became associated with the idea of courtly love, instead of courage and courtesy in battle.  In The Canterbury Talesthis is best illustrated by the Knight and his son, the Squire.  The Knight is chivalrous and fights for noble reasons, but the Squire - part of the newer, changing generation - fights to get attention from ladies.  He is interested in many activities like dancing and fluting, but the only interest of the Knight seems to be his actual job.

Religion was a dominant force in all aspects of life.  However, there was much corruption in the Church.  This is illustrated by Chaucer's clergy members, including the Nun, Monk, Friar, Summoner, and Pardoner.  In fact, the only holy member of the clergy is Chaucer's Parson. 

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