Name: date: block: “The General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales



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The General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales Group Assignments
Analyzing a Character from “The General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales
General Description: Each group will be assigned characters from “The General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales to analyze. You will analyze the characters to determine if the character is a stereotype Chaucer is poking fun of or an archetype (model) Chaucer is holding up as an example.
Main Assignment: After reading Chaucer’s description of your characters, tell us if Chaucer is satirizing this character (poking fun) of the character by creating a caricature via a stereotype or holding the character up as a model or example, an archetype.
How to Accomplish the Main Assignment:

  • identify

    • the character’s actions (as described by the narrator)

    • the character’s words (as relayed by the narrator if there are any)

    • the narrator’s direct comments (adjectives) that describe character’s physical appearance, personality, or emotional/mental state

  • infer (figure out, speculate on, guess, draw conclusions about)

    • what the character’s actions and words really tell you about the character

    • what then narrator’s direct comments really tell you about the character

  • identify and pay close attention to metaphors/similes and other figurative language used to describe the character and infer what those metaphors/similes and other figurative language tell you about the character

  • pay close attention to when the narrator seems to be exaggerating (hyperbole) features and characteristics of the character (this may be an indication of satire)

  • pay close attention to when the narrator is being ironic (saying the opposite of what he means – similar to sarcasm) and what this irony suggest about the true qualities of the character

  • pay close attention to the notes in the margins of the text

  • look up any words for which you do not know the meanings or whose meanings do not make sense in the context of the passage

  • determine whether the character under analysis is an archetype or a stereotype or perhaps both:

      • archetype - A pattern or model that serves as the basis for different, but related, versions of a character, plot, or a theme.  In this case you’re looking for a model character. The knight, for example, is the model of a hero.

    • stereotype - A generalization about a person or group based on appearance, ethnicity, age, gender, profession, etc...

      • the jock

      • the prep

      • the red neck

      • the class clown

      • the professional student (someone who goes to school for years and years)

      • the bully

      • the braggart (someone who boasts)

      • the con artist

    • Bottom Line: It’s not always a huge difference between a stereotype and archetype. Stereotypes tend to be more narrowly drawn (and are often based on negative assumptions about a group of people based on race, ethnicity, or some other characteristic).

    • If Chaucer seems to be poking fun at a character, it’s quite possible the character is a stereotype: Identify a modern stereotype comparable to this medieval stereotype.

  • respond to whether you think the narrator is satirizing/poking fun of this character (character type) or holding this character type as a model

  • Your group will create a poster for each character with the answers to the questions below.


Group One: The Prioress
A prioress is a nun in charge of a priory, a monastery for a group of nuns, members of a religious order for women. All persons belonging to religious orders took vows of poverty, obedience, chastity. Does she violate any?
Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Prioress? Why or why not? (Be able to give specific examples to support your assessment.) Who is the modern-day stereotype of the Prioress? Or identify the archetype she represents.
Group One: The Monk
A monk is a member of a religious brotherhood living in a monastery and committed to a certain discipline or set of religious rules. All persons belonging to religious orders took vows of poverty, obedience, chastity.
Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Monk? Why or why not? (Be able to give specific examples to support your assessment.) Who is the modern-day stereotype of the Monk? Or identify the archetype he represents.
Group One: The Franklin
A Franklin is a wealthy landowner in the Middle Ages. Note the reference to Epicurus at l. 346. This is a clue.
Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Franklin? Why or why not? (Be able to give specific examples to support your assessment.) Who is the modern-day stereotype of the Franklin? Or identify the archetype he represents.
Group Two: Doctor
Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the doctor? Why or why not? (Be able to give specific examples to support your assessment.) Does the medieval stereotype of the doctor in any way match the modern-day stereotype of a certain type of doctor? How so? How not? Is he the archetype of the good doctor?
Group Two: Wife of Bath
Based on what you know about women in the Middle Ages, why might she be unusual, or what does her unusual status suggest about the later Middle Ages since that’s the time at which The Canterbury Tales is composed and takes place? What does she do for a living?
Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Wife of Bath? Why or why not? (Be able to give specific examples to support your assessment.) Who is the modern-day stereotype of the Wife of Bath? Or what archetype does she represent?
Group Three: Parson, Plowman, and The Friar
A parson is a preacher, a minister. All persons belonging to religious orders took vows of poverty, obedience, chastity.
Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Parson? Why or why not? (Be able to give specific examples to support your assessment.) Is he an archetype or a stereotype of a minister?
What is the Plowman? (Hint: Who uses a plow in his profession?) Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Plowman? Why or why not? (Give specific examples to support your assessment.) What archetypal figure might the Plowman be?
A friar is a member of a religious order; unlike a monk, a friar did not live in a monastery but was allowed to travel in the outside world and support himself through begging for charity. All persons belonging to religious orders took vows of poverty, obedience, chastity. Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Friar? Why or why not? Give specific examples to support your assessment. Who is the modern-day stereotype of the Friar? Or identify the archetype he represents.
Group Four: The Miller
A miller was the owner/operator of a mill, someone who ground the cereal crops of farmers into flour or meal. He made his money by charging the farmer based on the weight of the amount of grain ground into flour.
Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Miller? Why or why not? Give specific examples to support assessment. Who is the modern-day stereotype of the Miller? Or identify the archetype he represents.
Group Four: The Pardoner

A pardoner, literally someone who pardons sins, sold indulgences, certificates signed by the pope forgiving a person’s sins and thereby reducing that person’s time in Purgatory in exchange for a charitable contribution to the church.


Is Chaucer poking fun of (satirizing) the Pardoner? Why or why not? Give specific examples to support assessment. Who is the modern-day stereotype of the Pardoner? Or identify the archetype he represents.


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