The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Also I preye yow to foryive it me,
al have I nat set folk in hir degree
Here in this tale, as that they shode stonde;
My wit is schort, ye may wel understonde.
(General Prologue 743 – 745)
If Chaucer were following the "proper order" of things, he would list the pilgrims in order of their social class, starting with the most noble and descending to the poorest. Instead he mixes it up a lot. This may be a foreshadowing of the disorder to come in the telling of tales, when the Miller interrupts the "proper" order begun by the Knight.
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,
The sothe is this, the cut fil to the Knight.
(General Prologue 344 – 345)
Chaucer plays it coy here by claiming not to know whether chance, fate, or fortune allows the Knight to draw the shortest cut and, hence, go first in the tale-telling. In fact, the Knight's position in the order is perfectly in keeping with the social logic that places the nobleman on top of the pyramid. So, in this logic, it's definitely fate that puts the Knight first.
"Now telleth ye, sir Monk, if that ye konne,
Somwhat to quite with the Knyghtes tale."
(Miller's Prologue 10 – 11)
By asking the Monk to go next, the Host reveals that he plans to have the pilgrims tell their tales in order of social class; after the Monk would likely be the Franklin or another one of the religious figures.