Chaucer Canterbury Tales Essay Topics

English 329 -- Chaucer


  1. The "idea" of woman (as opposed to women) in Chaucer.
  2. The function of a traditional metaphor or image in several works.
  3. The illuminations of the Ellesmere manuscript as a commentary by a medieval `reader'.
  4. Death as a friend or an enemy in Chaucer's poetry.
  5. Characterization in the Knight's Tale and the Teseida.
  6. Levels of meaning in the Miller's Tale.
  7. The Miller's Tale as a commentary on the Knight's Tale.
  8. Contrasting views of love in two poems by Chaucer.
  9. Characterization in the fabliau or in the romances.
  10. A comparison of a work by Chaucer with its `source'.
  11. The appropriateness of a tale to the teller of the tale in the Canterbury Tales.
  12. Antifeminism in Chaucer's poetry.
  13. Allegory in the Clerk's Tale.
  14. The Pardoner as an outsider or marginal figure.
  15. Appearance and reality in the Franklin's Tale.
  16. Gentilesse in the Franklin's Tale (and elsewhere in Chaucer).
  17. Character analysis in Troilus and Criseyde.
  18. Free will in Troilus and Criseyde, or the role of the stars, or the narrator's rebellion against his source.
  19. Characterization of the narrator in Troilus and Criseyde.
  20. Attitudes toward authority in Chaucer.

General Prologue
1. Using Chaucer's Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, describe the rising middle class of fourteenth-century England. In the essay, include the variety of occupations, the degree of wealth, the level of education, and the beginnings of political power represented among the pilgrims.

2. Contrast a corrupt clergyman from the Prologue with the Parson.

3. Select three characters from the Prologue whom Chaucer seems to be satirizing (i.e., the Wife of Bath, the Summoner, the Prioress). Using some direct quotations, explain the satire.

The Knight's Tale
1. Explain the features of this tale which characterize it as a romance.

2. An "anachronism" is a literary "slip" in which the author inserts something into a work which could not have happened or which could not have existed at the time the work is set. Explain the anachronism in The Knight's Tale.

The Miller's Tale
1. Contrast The Knight's Tale with The Miller's Tale.

2. Fully describe the character Absalom.

The Reeve's Tale
1. Explain how The Miller's Tale and The Reeve's Tale might be said to reveal a situation that medieval men really deplored and dreaded.

2. What might surprise the modern reader about the language surrounding sexual activity in The Miller's and The Reeve's Tales?

The Man of Law's Tale
1. Describe what commentary about marriage seems to be made through this tale.

2. Name one element of the story that is drawn from each of the narrative types that Chaucer utilized for this tale.

The Shipman's Tale
1. Of the six tales told thus far, including the Cook's fragment, four have been fabliaux. What is the significance of the large number of fabliaux?

2. Discuss the two contrasting...

(The entire section is 799 words.)

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