The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Where is the the narrator at the beginning of the General Prologue to Canterbury Tales? Who joins him and for what purpose?

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Rebeka Auer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is spring, and the narrator says he is staying at Tabard Inn in Southwark (now part of South London) while on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. He is soon joined by 29 people on the same mission.

Though none of them has met before, they soon start chatting, and the narrator begins to introduce them to the reader one by one. They include Knight, Squire, Yeoman, Prioress, Monk, Friar, Merchant, Clerk, Man of Law, Franklin, Haberdasher, Carpenter, Weaver, Dyer, Tapestry-Weaver, Cook, Shipman, Physician, Wife, Parson, Plowman, Miller, Manciple, Reeve, Summoner, Pardoner, and Host.

The host is the owner of the inn. Impressed at how well the group gets on, he sets out a challenge for them. He says that each person in the group has to tell four stories—two on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. The host, who has now decided to accompany them to Canterbury at his own expense, will judge what he thinks is the best tale. The person who wins will get a meal paid for by the others.

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Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of The Canterbury Tales, the narrator is on the beginning of a pilgrimage to Canterbury, to honor the martyred bishop of Canterbury, St. Thomas Becket. The beginning of his journey is marked my the arrival of multiple other pilgrims, all of whom are strangers but who become acquainted at an inn the night before they debark for their journey. In all, 29 companions meet him that night at the inn and they decide to leave and venture together on the pilgrimage.

The remainder of the tale is a recounting by the narrator of the various characters' lives—random, unconnected stories about each individual that are used to satirize then-modern English society. The narrator takes the form of a bard and recites their tales of irony, recounting them as if told by the characters on the journey.

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Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of The Canterbury Tales, the narrator notes that a particular time of year—spring—has a...

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