Meanwhile, middle-class merchants and craftspeople became more powerful because the demand for luxury goods rose during the recovery years after the plague.The lines between the estates were beginning to blur.Chaucer's Pilgrims and The Three EstatesAs you read excerpts from The Canterbury Tales, you will meet representatives of each of the three estates.The narrator praises each pilgrim as a representative of his or her estate, occupation, and gender; so the travelers are, as a group, designed to be an exemplary cross section of medieval life.Select Characters You Will Meet to learn about some of Chaucer's pilgrims.Characters You Will Meet Opens in modal popup window Parson and PardonerFirst Estate: A parson was a village priest who cared for the daily physical and spiritual needs of the members of his flock. He lived and worked among the people.A pardoner sold pardons to people to lessen their penance for sins. A pardoner could make a lot of money through his activities.Knight and SquireSecond Estate: A knight was a warrior who defended the monarchy as well as the people on his land. His duty was to display a sense of chivalry, which is a combination of courage, loyalty, courtesy to women, and protection of the defenseless.
A squire was a servant to a knight; being a squire was one step in the process of becoming a knight. Like a knight, a squire had to learn the skills of horsemanship, jousting, battle, and music making.MillerThird Estate: A miller's job was to run a mill that ground grain into flour for the entire community. People brought their grain to the miller, who processed it for a feeMerchantThird Estate: Merchants made and sold items such as cloth. As members of the rising middle class, merchants were becoming more powerful and wealthyChaucer's many characters transport us back to a time when society was structured very differently from the way it is now, but people and human nature were very much the same.The variety of characters in The Canterbury Tales not only provides a view of the different estates in medieval society. These characters also represent the positive and negative qualities that people may possess regardless of their station in life.Chaucer uses many techniques to paint a picture of medieval society and of human nature.Learn more about the society Chaucer depicts now. Print the informational article entitled “Chaucer’s Changing World.” Read it and then go to the Student Guide and answer the questionsthere on the article.Why would pilgrims travel to Canterbury? Are the tales that the pilgrims tell connected to one another?In this activity, you will learn about the setting and the structure of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's unfinished masterpiece. You will also examine a portion of "The Prologue" in its original language.