The author of The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, portrays himself as one of the pilgrims -- he becomes the narrator, the pilgrim-character and the author in one. He presents pilgrims to us one by one and lets us decide what kind of characters they are.

The knight, having the highest status in the society, is depicted first of all the pilgrims. Chaucer says that he is the noble and gentle knight, but then contradicts himself by telling the reader, that the knight always kills his opponents in tournaments (one was supposed to just knock the opponent off the horse). Chaucer used the technique of contradiction to tell the reader indirectly not to take everything literally but to compare and contrast the facts, and that way figure out a character's true nature.

The Knight's son is also his squire -- the knight-in-training. He is portrayed as "lusty bachelor" who does everything to impress the lady. He fashionably dressed, wearing an embroidered tunic; he is a good horseman who does well in battles.

The Yeoman, the servant of the knight, is brought along on the pilgrimage. Since he is handy with the bow and arrow and can hunt, he is able to get food for his master and his son. He is said to dress properly and well. He is sort of an early prototype of Robin Hood.

The head of the convent, the prioress, is a very peculiar character. She is the head of the convent but has a flirtatious smile. She dresses in excess of her position and tries to act like a court lady. She has a medallion on her rosary that says, "love conquers all," and likes animals more than people.

The dog is depicted here to emphasize the love of the prioress for animals. She is said to give meat, the food of the aristocrats, to a dog.

There is a monk travelling with the pilgrims as well. He likes novelty and would like to be an aristocrat -- he likes hunting for fun like aristocrats do. Like the prioress, he has expensive clothes, stables full of horses and expensive eating habits.

The physician, or "a Doctorour of Physik," as Chaucer says, is a perfect practitioner. He uses natural (not black) magic and knows astrology well. He is familiar with the "great names" of medicinal history. He is said to have saved the money he made during the plague years, this detail suggests doctor's love of wealth. Because gold is considered to have medicinal properties, he "loved gold in special"(Norton, 91)

The clerk has come from Oxford where he has studied to be a priest. He puts himself through school by borrowing the money from his friends and telling them he'll pray for them. He loves books more than clothes and is dedicated to his studies.

The Wife of Bath is a very interesting character. To learn more about her, click here, or go to The Character Analysis.