The Prologue takes place the night before the assembly commences their pilgrimmage. They are spending the night at the Tabard Inn. This is where the narrator first examines and details the appearance and status in life of each member of the pilgrimmage party.
"In Southwark, at the Tabard, as I lay
Ready to start upon my pilgrimage
To Canterbury, full of devout homage,
There came at nightfall to that hostelry
Some nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry persons who had chanced to fall
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all
That toward Canterbury town would ride" (20-27).
"In Southwark, at this noble hostelry
Known as the Tabard Inn, hard by the Bell.
But now the time is come wherein to tell
How all we bore ourselves that very night
When at the hostelry we did alight" (718-721).
The narrator has stopped for the night at the Tabard and is preparing to start his own pilgrimmage the following morning when 29 or so people come in. This group has met up on the road and are also on their way to Canterbury on a pilgrimmage.
Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales were written about 1380. They were written in Middle English, which was used after the Norman conquest (1066) until about 1500.
Chaucer's general prologue is a frame story, which is a story within a story. The tale of the pilgrimage is the outer story or frame, and within that, the characters tell their own stories, which are all bound together with thematic elements.
In Chaucer's general prologue, the narrator meets twenty-nine pilgrims traveling to Saint Thomas Becket's shrine, a saint known to heal people.
It is in the month of April, which the narrator describes as a time in England where everything is being born again, and people want to take pilgrimages. The narrator meets fellow pilgrims at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, which is slightly south and east of London.