Study Guide

The Plowman in The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story

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The Plowman

The Plowman is just as holy and virtuous as his brother the Parson. Living a simple life of hard labor, the Plowman has to do the dirtiest jobs of the medieval world, like load carts full of cow manure. Yet he never complains, for his labor is work he must do both for his fellow-Christians and for Christ. Therefore he loves God, whether the going is easy or hard.

The Plowman was the most recognizable medieval symbol of the poor and was associated with great virtue, especially after Chaucer's contemporary, William Langland, wrote a long poem entitled Piers Plowman, about a Christ-like, hard-working plowman who must save his society from the consequences of their sinful lives. Here, as his brother does with religious figures, the Plowman provides an important point of contrast with other lower-class characters we see in the Tales, like the Miller and the Reeve.

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