The Canterbury Tales

Hierarchy in The Canterbury Tales College

During the Middle Ages in England, a tripartite society existed, consisting of three estates: the nobility, the clergy, and the workmen. This tripartite system is often referred to as “those who fight, those who pray, and those who work” because of the duties of each section that provide the kingdom’s protection and rule, the sanctity of the church to save souls, and the food and material for all. A very small percentage of people belonged to the aristocracy, a larger group made up the clergy, and an enormous population consisted of the workmen before the Black Plague. The inequality-based form of this society was accepted because of its attempt to reflect the Heavenly hierarchy of the Heavenly hosts. As a result of the Black Plague, the population of the kingdom would be reduced by a minimum of a third, setting off the turmoil of the social unrest. The Canterbury Tales allows readers to see that Chaucer is aware of the social unrest, and though he acknowledges the honest lives of some peasants and believes much of the church was corrupt, he professes faith in the hierarchy due to his loyalty to the aristocracy.

In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer reflects the general awareness of the tension between the social hierarchy through...

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