Depiction Of The English Society In The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer

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Geoffrey Chaucer went against tradition in the Middle ages. Instead of writing in French he wrote in Middle English. Chaucer was considered the Father of the English Language because he opposed the norm and chose to draft in the language of the people. In The Canterbury Tales he planned many tales, but he did not complete the proposed 120 tales before his death. Chaucer composed about all of the classes in The Canterbury Tales to give us a glimpse about what the English society was like at the time. Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, categorizes the characters with the Feudal system and the Hierarchy class structure and deals with the themes of the rise of the middle class in medieval England through the development of the trade and craft guilds and the Medieval class system in England.

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The rise of the Middle class in medieval England through the development of the trade and craft guilds in the fourteenth century England. Merchant set his trade affairs with bargains and shares. “Reeve in youth he had learned a good trade and had been a carpenter as fine as could be seen” (General Prologue). England, was predominantly agriculture; and England differed from the more advanced Continental countries in that she was long an exporter of raw materials and an importer of manufactured goods. “Long-distance or overseas trade existed only in a few commodities, and, in this country these were almost entirely raw materials or easily portable luxuries” (Renard 4). England was, as we have seen, an agricultural country, and the nascent industry of the towns existed only to supply a limited range of commodities within a restricted local market. “Foreign trade, and to a less extent internal exchange, increased in variety and amount; a distinct class of traders, separated from the craftsmen-producers, grew steadily in power and prominence” (Render 4).

In practice the principal power this acquired was the right to trade throughout the kingdom. Some of these guilds were predominantly guilds of traders and some of producers; while some include both trading and producing element. “The new policy was primarily political in motive rather than economic, and was directed on the one side to fostering and development of trade, and on the other to conservation of the manpower of the nation” (Render 7). With this regulation of trade and commerce also went on a regulation of wages. “Primum Vivere, said the old adage, and to live it in necessary to eat and drink, more necessary even than to be housed and clothed, and to trade, and certainly more necessary than to draw up notaries’ deeds or to go to law” (Render 8. ) The unit production was the workshop of the individual master-craftsmen, but the craftsman held his position as a master only by virtue of full membership in his craft guild. “Craft guild worked within a clearly defined code of rules which had the object at once of safeguarding the independence, equality and prosperity of the craftsmen, of keeping board the highway of promotion from apprentice to journeyman and from to master, and also of preserving the integrity and well-being of the craft by guarding the consumer against exploitation and shoddy guilds” (Render 9). In particular, one of the most obscure chapters in English industrial history is that which deals with the relation between the Craft Guilds and municipal authorities. “New industries, moreover, and rival methods of industrial organization began to grow up outside the towns and to challenge  the supremacy of the guilds; while, in the guilds themselves, the system of regulation began to break down, and inequality of wealth and social consideration among the guildsmen destroyed the democratic basis of the earlier guild organization” (Render 4).

By the fourteenth century the guilds merchant had disappeared everywhere, and the craft guilds were in possession of the field. “Indeed, one of the regular resorts of the Craft Guild,-in its battle for independence from outside control,-was to get from the Crown a definite Charter of incorporation, granting to the Guild the widest range of powers that it was able to secure” (Render 6). “Now the crafts which provided for the inner man, for Messer Gaster, as Rebelias calls him (butchers, wine merchants, bakers) were almost placed everywhere in the second or third rank; the only exceptions were the grocer-druggists, and it will be seen why this so” (Render 8). They have two different kind of guildsmen; they have the craft guilds and the merchant guilds. The Merchant guilds were organizations of merchants who were involved in long-distance commerce and local wholesale trade, and may also have been retail sellers of commodities in their home cities and distant venues where they possessed rights to set up shop. Craft Guilds were organized along the lines of a particular trade. “The greater part of these functions was actually exercised by the crafts themselves, which, we have seen, made their own regulations for doing ordering of trade and production; but the city authorities always maintained and asserted a right of invention in the affairs of the guilds whenever the well-being and good service of the consumer were involved; and this right was frequently exercised in the case of the guilds which organized the supply of the food and drink” (Render 6).

Thereafter, as trade and industry grew in extent and complexity, the general organization of all merchants and master-craftsmen in a single body gave way to a system of craft guilds, each representing as a rule a single craft or mistery. “The main reason why the Medieval guild system nevered reached, in this country anything like the power or dimensions to which it attained in Flanders, in Italy, and in parts of Germany is that indeed every country was predominantly agricultural and England differed from the more advanced Continental countries in that she was long an exporter of raw materials and in an importer of manufactured goods” (Render 3). In the great days of the Guild system the industrial market was almost entirely local. The Social theory was divided into three groups: the military, the clergy, and the laity. The clergy the Prioress, the Nun and three Priests, the Parson, the Monk, and the Friar.

The Laity is the wealthy Franklin and the poor plowman. The Prioress is a Nun with a very simple and coy smile. She was an excellent singer, she also spoke French, she knew her table manners, she was a very courteous, discreet, pleasant, and amiable person. The second Nun was the minister and nurse of vices, and often kept busy in lawful good works. Her hands are held by a great sloth which only allows her to sleep, eat, and drink, and she was the flower of all virgins, maid, mother, and daughter of son. Humble and high over every creature and meek and blissful. She damned laziness and praised virginity. She was also pleased to remain a virgin throughout her whole marriage. The Parson has virtuous matters and his matters are very clear and he is a southern man. He puts the meditation before all the students; for their emendation. He only takes the true meaning trust him. He was the Parson of a certain township who was poor, rich in holy thought and work; he was a very well learned man.  

10 December 2020

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