What is the purpose of The Canterbury Tales?

Chaucer’s experience as a busy esquire and diplomat to King Edward III exposed him to the world and sophistication. He also spent time as a customs official, which was a difficult and stressful job. He had to handle record-keeping, certify the honesty of customs collectors, and deal with shrewd traders who were taking advantage of their positions. These experiences gave him an up-close look at human faults and vices, and they likely inspired him to write satirical tales that reveal the social ills of medieval England.

Chaucer did not have much time to write because he was so busy with work, but he enjoyed sharing his poems with an audience in London. Unfortunately, he had to go into voluntary exile after his patron, Nicholas Brembre, faced prosecution. This meant that Chaucer lost his audience and risked remaining unheard forever. It was during his exile that Chaucer came up with The Canterbury Tales, in which he makes up an audience of Canterbury pilgrims. These characters are a diverse group of attentive listeners and passionate storytellers who give voice to Chaucer’s views on English society.

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The Canterbury Tales is a beloved medieval literary work written in Middle English. Chaucer’s professional life made him not only worldly and sophisticated but also disappointed with corruption and moral failures. He chose fine literature to channel his views and made pilgrims his audience after going into exile. In the prologue, each pilgrim is described in detail, including their background, clothing, likes and dislikes, and physical features. The tales themselves range from religious to secular, serious to humorous, and didactic to lewd, but they all give voice to Chaucer’s views on English society.

Overall, Chaucer’s experiences in the royal court and in the customs office, as well as his exile, likely inspired him to create The Canterbury Tales. The characters in the tales are a diverse group of people who offer a unique perspective on medieval English society. The tales themselves range from serious to humorous and from religious to secular, but they all offer insights into the social ills of Chaucer’s time. Despite the challenges he faced in his life, Chaucer was able to use his experiences to create one of the most beloved works of literature in the English language.


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