The Canterbury Tales Sample Essay Outlines
by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Sample Essay Outlines

The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the work as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help you get started.

  • Topic #1
    One of Chaucer's persistent themes throughout The Canterbury Tales is the relationships of husbands and wives. In a well-developed paper, present the different views of this relationship as they are reflected in the Tales.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: One fine example of the diversity of The Canterbury Tales is its presentation of different views on the relationships of husbands and wives—both the traditional medieval (in which the woman is considered to be subject to her husband) and nontraditional (in which the wife controls her husband by any means possible).

    II. The Traditional View
    A. The Cleric's Tale
    B. The Franklin's Tale
    C. The Merchant's Tale

    III. The Nontraditional View
    A. The Wife of Bath's Tale
    B. The Shipman's Tale

    IV. The Problem of Unfaithful Wives
    A. The Miller's Tale
    B. The Merchant's Tale

    V. Commentary on marriage in the dialogue between the tales

  • Topic #2
    As the pilgrimage progresses, animosities develop between several pairs of characters. Discuss the feuds between the Miller and the Reeve; the Friar and the Summoner; and the Cook and the Host. In each explanation, include the origin of the rivalry or disagreement; the way tales are used as weapons in the dispute; what is added in the links of dialogue; and any hints from the General Prologue.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: During the course of the pilgrimage, animosities develop between several pairs of characters. Of paticular note are the Miller and the Reeve; the Friar and the Summoner; and the Cook and the Host. These characters often use their tales as a "weapon" to express their feelings about each other and their dispute.

    II. The Miller and the Reeve
    A. Origin of the dispute
    B. Disputing through the dialogues
    C. Using the tales as weapons

    III. The Friar and the Summoner
    A. Origin of the dispute
    B. Disputing through the dialogues
    C. Using the tales as weapons

    IV. The Host and the Cook
    A. Origin of the dispute
    B. Disputing through the dialogues
    C. Using the tales as weapons

  • Topic #3
    Describe three of the literary genres represented in The Canterbury Tales. For each genre, select and describe an example from the Tales, showing how the particular tale displays the characteristics of that genre.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: The romance, the fabliau, and the beast fable are just three of the literary genres employed by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales . By...

(The entire section is 652 words.)