• Year Published: 1478.
  • Pages: 504.

Canterbury Tales Summary

This novel by Geoffrey Chaucer is a story about the narrator and the other pilgrims who are on their way to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas à Becket cathedral in Canterbury. The story starts with an innkeeper, Harry Bailey, suggesting that each of the pilgrims tell stories while traveling to pass the time and keep everyone entertained.

The Tales of the Pilgrims

The first one was the Knight, whose story is about two other knights named Palamon and Arcite. The two fell in love with the same maiden named Emily. There was a duel which ended up with Palamon and Emelye marrying each other.

The Miller’s tale was next and it was a comic tale about three men who were fighting over a woman’s affection. It eventually ended with a series of mishaps which got all the other pilgrims laughing in the end.

The Reeve tells a tale about a sly miller who got into trouble with two students who seduced his wife and daughter. After a series of commotion, the students were able to grab hold of the items stolen by the miller before they left.

The Cook went next but his story left unfinished. He was eventually followed by the Man of Law whose story is about an unfortunate emperor’s daughter, Constance, who fled from one empire to the other after she survived a series of misgivings. She was eventually rewarded with a happy ending when she was reunited with her husband, the king, and their son becoming an heir to the throne.

The Wife of Bath’s tale is about a knight who raped a maiden and was sent on the journey by the queen to find out what women really want in a marriage. He, later on, met an old woman who gave him the right answer. And in exchange for all the favors, the two of them got married to each other.

The Friar’s tale is about a summoner working for an archdeacon. The summoner met a devil disguised as a yeoman. After the former extorted a wealthy man, the later wished the summoner be sent to hell. The yeoman/devil appeared and dragged the former with him for punishment.

The Summoner’s tale is about a friar who abused a wealthy couple. While the Clerk, who came next, tells a story about a husband testing his wife’s faithfulness.After a series of tests, he eventually affirmed his wife’s devotion.

The Merchant tells a tale about an unfaithful wife and a blind husband. On the other hand, the Squire, who is set to tell his tale, was eventually interrupted by the Franklin, whose story is about a wife who negotiated with a young lad to clear the coast for her husband upon a negotiation that she’ll sleep with him. The lad gladly carries out the wish with the husband telling the wife to keep her promise, for which the young lad releases her from all conditions.

The Physician’s tale is about a cunning judge who eventually killed himself after being involved in a drama of framing another woman out of dishonor. After him, The Pardoner’s tale is about three youths who eventually got themselves killed after being blinded by greed while trying to cheat Death.

Chaucer’s View on the Tales

A series of other tales came next coming from the Prioress, Chaucer, The Monk, The Nun’s Priest, The Second Nun, the Canon’s Yeoman, The Manciple and The Parson.

There were no final conclusions as to who won the tale according to the Innkeeper’s conditions. Eventually, Chaucer ends the tale with a credit given to Jesus Christ, in forgiveness from all the crude stories being mentioned in the novel.

Canterbury Tales Themes

  • Love
  • Church Corruption
  • Social Satire
  • Competition
  • Importance of Friendship and Company
  • Writing and Authorship


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