The Canterbury Tales

The Characteristics of Feudalism as Presented in The Canterbury Tales 12th Grade

The Canterbury Tales is an estates satire, that not only points out the shortcomings and inequalities, but also the inauthenticity, that exist under feudalism’s code of social stratification. Examples of these characterizations of the estates are found widely throughout the general prologue and the pilgrims’ tales.

The first example of inequality in The Canterbury Tales that is encountered as a result of social stratification is religious, or clerical, inequality. The Prioress, the Monk, and the Friar are all ecclesiastics of the first estate and are the most inauthentic characters in the book. The Summoner and the Pardoner both work for the church and are the worst characters in the book. The Clerk, the Parson, and the Plowman are all of the lowest estate both socially and financially but all practice morality in such a way that would be expected of those of the first estate. The parallel drawn here is that clergymen were appointed by the King, the most powerful man in England save for the Pope. Professor Richard Abels states in his article “Medieval Kingship in Late Twelfth- and Early Thirteenth-Century England: the Reigns of King Henry II and King John” that “Henry II also wished to restore royal control over the English...

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