The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Canterbury Tales - Analyzing the Pilgrims

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Assignment for The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

  • Read the description of your assigned character in the Prologue: your character is ___________, lines __________ in the General Prologue.
  • Determine whether your character is a member of the Church, the Court, or the Commoners.
  • Make bullet notes on the type of clothes that he/she wears and the physical description of the character.
  • Summarize that character’s personality traits. Some characters are directly characterized; some are indirectly characterized. Be able to defend your characterization through citation lines in the text. Make sure that you include information about the four personality types we discussed (Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, and Phlegmatic) as they relate to your character.
  • For the paper, which must be at least three pages (four with a Works Cited page) and in MLA format, compile all of the information given within the General Prologue AND the character’s individual prologue and tale. The Pardoner and the Wife of Bath are given partially in the textbook. Everyone will need to go online and find a complete version of his or her character’s prologue and tale. You can find those for free at or various other sites through a Google search. You will need to include all of the following in your in-depth analysis of your character to receive full credit: a. Appearance b. Personality type(s) – Sanguine, Melancholy, Choleric, Phlegmatic c. Speech / Thoughts d. Mannerisms / Behaviors e. Occupation and Job Description f. Political and Religious Beliefs g. Relationship with the other pilgrims h. Chaucer’s impression of the pilgrim i. Comparisons to Medieval society (this will take some researching on your part into the lives of the people of the Middle Ages)
  • For the PowerPoint presentation, you will need to complete the following for full credit: a. Present the information you gathered and included in your paper b. What famous actor/actress would you cast to play the role of your character in a movie? Explanations should include physical descriptions, descriptions of clothing style, and personality. (Use your notes from #2 to help you with your essay.) c. Provide a picture of your “cast member.” You may use the Internet for your picture or scan in a picture from a magazine or newspaper. If you are a good artist and know photo-editing software well, you may choose to create a caricature of your actor/actress in costume. (If you have to ask what a caricature is or if it has to be a good drawing, then DO NOT draw your own picture—this is only for the artists.) d. In preparation for your oral presentation of your assigned character, use the Internet to research your character. Take notes and remember to save citation information. Download appropriate pictures. Your presentation should include at least 5 slides.

About this Document

At the end of TCT, I have my students write their first research assignment of the year. Based on their previous writing submissions and critical thinking skills displayed in discussion, I assign them each a pilgrim from the General Prologue (leaving out the REALLY obscure ones), and then I explain their research assignment (this handout). It's basically a research-driven exploration into direct and indirect characterization. I also give them the history of the four temperaments, the humours, physiognomy, and such. Look for uploads: Physiognomy and Humours, Personality Table, and two transparencies I make called Humours Table 1 and 2.