How do Chaucer's Canterbury Tales portray the middle class in the Middle Ages? Please tell where you found the information.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the time that Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, the plague had killed many people, and the society began to change as there was much conflict and social upheaval, with a middle class arising out of this conflict. The personages of The Canterbury Tales who are among this middle class are introduced in the Prologue. They are the following:

  • The Merchant - Upper Middle Class

The merchant is very much a part of the rising middle class. With a forked beard, he wears a beavered hat from Flanders, and his boots are fancy with buckles.

So dignified and stately he proceeded,
Bargaining and always wheeling and dealing.
He was a worthy man and worth his fame,

But, the merchant disguises the fact that he is in debt.

  • The Lawyer - Upper Middle Class

The "man of law" strives to be admitted into the nobility. He is very cautious and wise; however, he pretends to be busy many times when he is not.

His clothes were modest, his coat was drawn
Around by a silken belt, brightly striped.

  • The Hatter, Dyer, and Weaver - Middle Class.

These all wear the "standard uniform" of the guilds. They are successful as their "Knives are not trimmed with brass, but with shining silver."

  • The Cook - Middle Class

An accomplished man in his field, the cook makes tasty stews and soups, and pies.

  • The Doctor of Medicine - Lower Middle Class

A frugal man, the doctor tends people well, but cherishes his gold the most

  • The Wife of Bath - Middle Class

The clothes that she makes from the cloth she weaves are better than those woven by the Belgians and the Dutch, who were known for superior cloth, and she can afford to dye them red, a dye which is made from a certain beetle 

                                               ....Her stockings
Were red, full scarlet red and somewhat shocking.
....Her shoes were supple and new....

  • The Provisioner - Upper Middle Class

A good businessman, he always makes a"satisfying sum."

  • The Steward  and the Miller - Immoral Middle Class

These men skim some of the profits from the accounts that they handle. 

Read the study guide:
The Canterbury Tales

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