General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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What weapons does the Yeoman carry in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales?

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The Yeoman, who accompanies the Knight as his only servant on the pilgrimage, carries several weapons, typical of his class and duties:

A sheaf of arrows, with peacock feathers, bright and sharp . . . and in his hand he had a mighty bow . . . and on his arm he bore a fancy shield . . . And on his belt a sword and buckler [to fasten the sword to his belt]. (Prologue, ll. 104-112)

So, his actual weaponry consists of a bow, arrows, and a sword.  Aside from his duties as the Knight's servant, which would include hunting game for meals, the Yeoman is from the class within the medieval feudal structure that would be expected to support the Knight if he goes to battle for his leader, probably a Baron or Earl.  The Yeoman most likely farms land on the Knight's estates, and in exchange for the right to live on and farm the land, the Yeoman owes certain duties to the Knight, the most important of which are military related.  If the Knight goes to war, the Yeoman, as well as the rest of the Yeoman class on the Knight's land, goes to war with him.  The Yeoman, because he is an expert in the use of the longbow, would be among the most important of the Knight's troops.  Longbow archers were considered just below the status of cavalry troops in a medieval English army and were crucial to English victory at the most important English battle against the French at Agincourt.

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