What is the Premise of the Canterbury Tales

What is Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century, is one of the earliest and most critically acclaimed works in English literature. It contains 24 stories written in Middle English. These stories are mainly written in verse form although some stories contain prose. The stories are presented as a part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims who are on their way to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the premise of the Canterbury Tales.

What is the Premise of the Canterbury Tales

As mentioned above, the stories in the Canterbury Tales is presented as a part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.

The narrator joins the group of 29 pilgrims at the Tabard Inn, a tavern in Southwark, near London. However, the narrator only gives a descriptive account of 27 pilgrims. These pilgrims include a knight, Squire, Yeoman, Prioress, Monk, Friar, Merchant, Clerk, Sergent of Law, Franklin, Haberdasher, Carpenter, Cook, Weaver, Dyer, Tapestry-Weaver, Shipman, Physician, Wife of Bath, Parson, Plowman, Miller, Manciple, Reeve, Summoner, Pardoner, and Host. It is the host who suggests that they travel together to Canterbury and entertain each other by having a story-telling competition.  The pilgrims draw lots to see who would start the contest and the knight is the first to initiate the narration.

What is the Premise of the Canterbury Tales - 2

Chaucer uses a wide range of types and classes of people to paint a critical picture of the English society in the fourteenth century. According to the prologue, each character is supposed to narrate four stories – two stories on their way to the shrine, and two stories on the return journey. But most of these tales were never completed. The incomplete work only contains 24 tales. 

These 24 tales are narrated by different characters and have different themes and issues such as religion, role of women, marriage, love, justice, etc. The tone and attitudes, as well as the language of each story, is created to match the character who is narrating the story. 

Read more about the Structure of the Canterbury Tales

Image Courtesy:

“Chaucer ellesmere” (Public Domain) via  

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


Related pages


angle of repose equationhypoglycemia vs hyperglycemia symptomssilique poemshakespearean tragedy definitionpst utc offsetbeta particle chargedifference tortoise and turtlepsychoanalysis psychodynamicgnostic agnosticthe difference between ldl and hdldifference between cytokines and chemokinesowner equity equationceramic and porcelain differenceeasy speeches to memorizedisplacement vector formulawhat is the difference between a hurricane and a typhooncalculating discount factorlanguage and dialect differenceallegory in literature definitionovertones and harmonicssoliloquy definition literaturewhat is the abbreviation for madame in frenchnaturalism and realism in theatregnostic agnosticdifference between heterotrophs and autotrophstulsi or basildefinition totipotenttrousers vs slacksmalapropism examplesdifference between plant and animal cells in mitosiswhat is the definition of facetiousdifference between precipitation and agglutinationannealing and normalizingproverb and adageenthalpy defdifference between a dicot and monocotdmitri mendeleev constructed the first periodic table which isguard cells and epidermal cellspositive versus normative economicsdifference between kwashiorkor and marasmusmetric ton vs standard tondifference between series circuit and parallel circuitethyl vs isopropyl alcoholcolloidal oncotic pressureferrous ionwhat is the difference between modulation and demodulationwhat is hypoxia and hypoxemiacarnivorous omnivorous herbivorousdistinguish between polarized and unpolarized lightqualitative and quantitative chemistrynucleotide vs nucleosidesynesthesia literary examplessister chromosomes definitiondifference between turtles and tortoisesdifference dietitian and nutritionistwhat is the definition of inorganic compoundwhat is the difference between brandy and whiskeydifference between ssri and snricoelenterata phylumdifference between rite and ritualdifference between liking and lovingcinderella story moralcompare and contrast evaporation and boilingpnp transistor and npn transistordifference between kinematics and dynamicsomnivores and herbivorescast iron vs wrought iron2d echocardiogramwriting diamante poemsexplain the difference between an atom and an elementis bread soda and bicarbonate of soda the same thingsynchronous motors vs induction motorsvowels and consonants meaningpassive lpfwhat is the difference between mla and apawhat is the difference between uracil and thymineheterotrophs examplesscientific name of groundnut