The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
How we cite our quotes:
A bettre felawe sholde men noght finde:
He wolde suffre, for a quart of wyn,
A good felawe to have his concubyn
A twelf-month and excuse him atte fulle.
(General Prologue 648 – 651)
Chaucer's idea about what makes a good companion – someone who allows you to indulge in your vices without question – has got to be a little bit ironic. Although, on the other hand, maybe certain types would prefer to hang out with those who mind their own business. Is Chaucer this type, or is something else going on here?
With him ther rood a gentil Pardoner
of Rouncival, his freend and his compeer.
(General Prologue 669 – 670)
The fact that the Summoner and the Pardoner are friends is not surprising, for they're both in the business of selling forgiveness from spiritual obligations. The Pardoner sells pardons from sin, and the Summoner sells a sort of "bail," or escape from an obligation to appear in a Church court for one's sins. Like the craftsmen, then, these two hang together because they practice a similar trade.
For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
I saugh nat this yeer so mery a compaignye
Atones in this herberwe as is now.
Fayn wolde I doon yow mirthe, wiste I how.
(General Prologue 763 – 766)
The merriness the Host senses in this group of pilgrims causes him to want to increase it further by officiating over the tale-telling game. His proposal also serves him well, though, for it immediately makes him part of this "mery" company.