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The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story

The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Competition Theme

The Canterbury Tales are about a tale-telling competition in which pilgrims engage on their way to Canterbury. This competition is supposed to be friendly, but it becomes the opposite of that when some of the professional competition between the pilgrims overshadows the tale-telling one. This leads to a contrast in the Tales between "good" and "bad" kinds of competition, and to questions about the pros and cons of competition and the ways in which it can both enhance and destroy fellowship. The kinds of competition in which the pilgrims engage, moreover, from jousts to wrestling matches to singing contests, can tell us important information about their characters.

Questions About Competition

  1. To what extent does the competition between the pilgrims enhance the fellowship, or feeling of community, among them, and to what extent does it threaten to destroy the fellowship?
  2. What different kinds of competition do we see in the General Prologue and frame story? How does the type of competition in which a character engages reflect upon his character?
  3. Why do you think the most intense competitions in the frame story occur between the Reeve and the Miller, and the Friar and the Summoner?
  4. How can tales be a tool of competition? How can words be a tool of competition?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In the General Prologue and frame story of The Canterbury Tales, the competition among the pilgrims strengthens the fellowship, or feeling of community, among them.

In the General Prologue and frame story of The Canterbury Tales, the competition among the pilgrims threatens to destroy the fellowship, or feeling of community, among them.

In the General Prologue and frame story of The Canterbury Tales, the type of competition in which a pilgrim engages reveals important information about his or her character.

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