The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
And which of yow that bereth him best of alle,
That is to seyn, that telleth in this cas
Tales of best sentence and most solas,
Shal have a soper at oure aller cost.
(General Prologue 796 – 799)
The Host expresses the standard medieval definition of good literature here: it's something that both instructs and delights. This definition comes from ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle's Poetics, a treatise about the elements and purpose of drama.
Whan that the Knight had thus his tale y-told,
In al the route nas ther yong ne old
That he ne seyde it was a noble storie,
And worthy for to drawen to memorie,
And namely the gentils everichoon.
(Miller's Prologue 1 – 5)
Here's another definition of what makes for a good story: something that's worth remembering. The "gentils" or higher-class people in the fellowship especially enjoy the Knight's story, probably because he tells a very polite and traditional classically-inspired romance.
The Millere is a cherl, ye knowe wel this,
So was the Reve, and othere manye mo,
And harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
(Miller's Prologue 74 – 76)
The idea that the type of person you are determines the type of story you will tell is one that seems to influence some of the tale/teller pairings in the Canterbury Tales. The lower-class Miller and Reeve both tell fabliaux, a genre of story full of sexual jokes and associated popular culture with the lower classes. But other pairings in the Tales don't necessarily confirm the idea expressed above.