QUESTIONS FOR READING THE GENERAL PROLOGUE, THE CANTERBURY TALES
The General Prologue.
Below, I offer guiding questions for each section of the General Prologue. Again, use the questions as a guide for your reading, and things to think about. And you can respond to anything here you want for your weekly writing responses.
Lines 1 – 18
How does Chaucer describe the season and the setting for the narrative poem? How do you think that the season is significant? What is important about the fact that the poem is set in the month of April? How is nature described, and how does the description of nature connect then to the description of people gathering for a pilgrimage?
Lines 19 – 34
Why do you think that it is important that the poem makes an “I,” the first person pronoun, pronounced? What effect does it have on the poem that it is introduced by an “I?”
What is significant about the fact that the narrator and the other 29 pilgrims gather at a tavern? Why is it important that the narrator emphasizes the sense of “fellowship?”
Lines 35 – 42
Describe the narrator’s tone in the opening of the poem. What kind of narrative voice does he assume? What does his narrative voice suggest / foreshadow concerning the rest of the poem?
The Catalog of Pilgrims in the General Prologue, lines 43 – 717.
Do you think that there is any significance to the order in which Chaucer presents each pilgrim? If so, what is the logic behind the order?
Explore how Chaucer / the narrator develops his description of each pilgrim. What specifics does he emphasize? Why does he emphasize certain aspects of each pilgrim?
Which pilgrim and description of him / her do you like the most? Why? What is it about Chaucer’s description that interests you?
What social aspects to life and the world does Chaucer seem to emphasize in his descriptions of the pilgrims? What sorts of things does he seem to satirize?
The Narrative Voice
The voice of the narrator in The Canterbury Tales is very significant. The narrative poem is told from the specific, unnamed “I” who describes each pilgrim. How would you describe his voice? What is the narrator’s attitude toward everything and everyone? Does he seem to be a kind person? A reasoned person? A malicious person? A judgmental person? Is there any way in which you can “picture” the narrator in the same way that the narrator offers us “pictures” of each pilgrim?
The narrator describes each pilgrim sort-of “warts and all,” meaning he offers the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of the pilgrims are downright odious people. What sort of attitude does the narrator have toward each of them? Does he judge and / or condemn any of them? What do you make of his stance?
Lines 720 – 744
After offering a description of each pilgrim, the narrator digresses on the manner in which he plans to narrate the pilgrimage and all of the stories. What things about his storytelling technique does the narrator seem to defend? Why do you think he makes a big deal out of claiming he wishes to tell the stories straight and true? How does he use both Christ and Plato to defend his storytelling style?
The Host at the End of the General Prologue.
What function does the host of the Tavern play at the end of the Prologue? Why does it seem essential that Chaucer include the Host of the tavern in the scheme of The Canterbury Tales?
Entry filed under: WEEK FOUR CANTERBURY TALES.