illustration of a clergyman with Canterbury cathedral behind him

The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Start Free Trial

In which month does the pilgrimage occur in The Canterbury Tales?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The very first line of The Canterbury Tales tells us that the pilgrimage starts in the month of April. According to Chaucer, April is when most pilgrims start their pilgrimage to visit the shrine of St. Thomas. It is a time of rebirth, with new life returning to the land after the winter's cold and the March droughts. The story's prologue goes on to say that it was on a day in April that the pilgrims of this story all meet at the Tabard Inn as they prepare to go on their journey to Canterbury. The pilgrimage itself would have lasted no more than a week, or slightly longer if they lingered long at the shrine. That means that the whole affair could have been completed before the end of the month.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

You need the first few lines of the whole Canterbury Tales for this - this is an excerpted chunk from the General Prologue:

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende...
Bifil that in that seson on a day,
In southwerk at the tabard as I lay...

So the answer is right there: it's April. Or at least, it looks like being April, it was only "in that season" that Chaucer stayed in Southwark at the Tabard Inn where he met the pilgrims.

April is the month when things start to grow: the rainy weather of March has brought the shoots out of the ground. And that's the time when people want to go on pilgrimages - and go off to Canterbury.

Hope it helps!

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial