The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
How we cite our quotes:
At night was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a companye
Of sondry folk, by aventure y-falle
In felawshipe, and pilgrims were they all.
(General Prologue 23 – 26)
Here Chaucer uses the two words he most often chooses to speak about the group of pilgrims: companye and felawshipe. Companye simply refers to a group of traveling companions, but fellowship can mean both this and a group of intimates – something closer to friends. These pilgrims have been thrown together by aventure, or chance, but can they form a true fellowship from their chance encounter?
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
That I was of hir felawshipe anon.
(General Prologue 31 – 32)
Chaucer's means of joining the fellowship of pilgrims is to speak with all of the members. His connection with all, and not just one or two of them, is what truly makes him a part of the group. This might give us an idea of what it means to a medieval person to be part of a fellowship.
But al that he mighte of his freendes hente,
On bokes and on lerninge he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf him wherwith to scoleye.
(General Prologue 299 – 302)
Here we have the first version of a student loan, except that it doesn't seem like the clerk will pay this back; instead, he'll exchange prayers for the money to continue his schooling. It's hard for us to imagine relying upon our friends for the money we need for school, which suggests that the obligations and expectations of friendship have changed a lot since Chaucer's time.