illustration of a clergyman with Canterbury cathedral behind him

The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Start Free Trial

Who are the two "idealised" characters in the prologue to The Canterbury Tales?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The knight is undoubtedly the most virtuous character introduced in the General Prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The knight, a courtly lover, holds the highest social rank of all the pilgrims. Additionally, he narrates a metrical romance of courtly love that is absent of the vulgarity found in many of the other pilgrims’ tales. The narrator describes the knight as one who “loved chivalrie, / Trouthe and honour, freedom and curteisie. / Ful worthy was he in his lords were” (ll.45-47). Thus, the knight is noble, loyal and generous.

A second virtuous character introduced in the General Prologue is the plowman. The narrator describes the plowman as “A trewe swynkere and a good was he / Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee. / God loved he best with al his hole herete / alle tymes, though he gamed or smerte” (ll.531-534). In other words, the knight is described as a good worker who loves God at all times, whether he rejoiced or suffered. Although not much is told of the plowman, the reader understands that he is of the lowest social class, the lay or peasantry. The reader also understands that the plowman values hard work and is honest, unlike many of the other pilgrims.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team