Which pilgrims does Chaucer idealize in The Canterbury Tales? 

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chaucer idealizes the following pilgrims: the knight, the parson, and the plowman. The knight is idealized as a “true, a perfect gentle knight.” Chaucer lists his accomplishments for us, including a long list of all the military campaigns in which he has participated. He goes on to say, ”loved chivalry, truth and honor, liberality and courtesy.” The knight is an important man, but it would be hard to tell that from his clothing, which consists of a stained tunic he wears under his armor.

The parson is the ideal example of the religious class. In contrast to the friar, whom we meet earlier in the Prologue, he is a good shepherd to his flock. Chaucer says: “He was benign and wonderfully diligent, and most patient in adversity.” The parson is poor, but he refuses to go to London to earn money in the way the Friar does, or to beg from people. Instead, he stays at home “tending his flock.” Chaucer wants us to know he is the perfect example, and he says, “he was not scornful to sinful men,” and goes on to describe how the friar led his parishioners through “good example.”

The plowman is also an idealized pilgrim, a member of the peasant class. Chaucer tells us: “he was a good and faithful laborer.” The reader is meant to remember the miller, who is in the tavern having a good time. The plowman labors for others with no expectation of reward. “He would thresh….for every poor man without pay.” The plowman is also religious, faithful, and pays his tithes to the church on time.

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The Canterbury Tales

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