Student Notes: The Canterbury Tales – Book by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales book notes

Student Notes – The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer


The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 14th century, is a collection of stories told by a diverse group of pilgrims traveling to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury. The work offers a rich portrayal of medieval society, with characters from different social classes and backgrounds sharing their tales. The Canterbury Tales explores themes of social commentary, satire, and the complexities of human nature. This set of student notes provides a comprehensive overview of the key elements, themes, and characters in The Canterbury Tales, along with analysis and discussion points for further exploration and understanding.



  • Frame Narrative: The overarching narrative revolves around the pilgrimage itself, with each pilgrim telling a story during their journey to and from Canterbury.



  • The Narrator: The narrator, Chaucer himself, sets the scene and provides descriptions of the pilgrims.
  • The Pilgrims: The diverse group of pilgrims represents various social classes and professions, offering a broad cross-section of medieval society.


Key Tales:

  • The Knight’s Tale: A story of love and chivalry, exploring the themes of honor, destiny, and the complexities of human relationships.
  • The Miller’s Tale: A bawdy and comedic tale that satirizes social conventions and explores themes of lust and deception.
  • The Wife of Bath’s Tale: A tale of female empowerment, challenging traditional gender roles and exploring the theme of sovereignty in marriage.
  • The Pardoner’s Tale: A moralistic tale about greed, deception, and the consequences of immoral actions.


Themes and Satire:

  • Social Commentary: The Canterbury Tales serves as a critique of the social, moral, and religious aspects of medieval society, shedding light on the flaws and hypocrisies of its institutions and individuals.
  • Satire: Chaucer uses satire to expose and ridicule various aspects of society, including corruption, greed, and hypocrisy.
  • Human Nature: The tales delve into the complexities of human nature, exploring themes of love, deceit, morality, and the pursuit of happiness.


Analysis and Discussion Points:

  • Analyze the portrayal of different social classes in The Canterbury Tales, discussing how Chaucer uses satire and humor to critique the behaviors and values of each group.
  • Reflect on the role of women in the tales, examining the Wife of Bath’s character and her subversion of traditional gender roles.
  • Discuss the use of irony and satire in the tales, analyzing how Chaucer employs these literary techniques to criticize and challenge societal norms and conventions.
  • Explore the theme of storytelling itself, considering the power of narratives to shape perception, challenge authority, and reflect the human experience.
  • Reflect on the role of religion in The Canterbury Tales, examining the depiction of religious figures and institutions and their interactions with the other characters.



The Canterbury Tales offers a fascinating glimpse into medieval society through its diverse cast of characters and their engaging narratives. Geoffrey Chaucer’s work explores themes of social commentary, satire, and the complexities of human nature, providing readers with a vivid portrait of the medieval world. By engaging with the student notes provided, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the key elements, themes, and characters in The Canterbury Tales and appreciate its enduring significance in the literary canon.

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