The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
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.