illustration of a clergyman with Canterbury cathedral behind him

The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Which pilgrim is described most positively in The Canterbury Tales?

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Only three pilgrims are described with nothing but respect for their actions and way of life: the knight, the parson, and the plowman. It would be a close call to decide if the narrator respects the knight or the parson more.  Both are models of their role in medieval society. The knight is described as a "true, perfect gentle-knight," a "most distinguished man," and is described as the perfect knight who is modest, wise, gentle, and quick to ask penance and give thanks when home from war.

The parson, on the other hand, is described as "holy in thought and work," "holy and virtuous," and the narrator declares, "I think there never was a better priest." He is the only truly good model of a religious figure described on the pilgrimage.

The knight was the highest ranking pilgrim on the journey, so his behavior was to be expected of a noble knight.  The clergy, however, was often corrupt as depicted by the monk, the friar, the pardoner, etc.


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