Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) & Geoffrey Chaucer
(1342-1400): The Two Greatest Writers of the Middle Ages
Both Upper Middle Class/ Landed Gentry
Dante is Italian; Chaucer is English
Both Active in Public Affairs, Envoys of
Every one of Dante's subjects (except
himself) is dead; Chaucer's are all alive.
Both Laymen with Orthodox views
Dante used Bitterness, Chaucer used Humor
to criticize religious hypocrites.
Both Aware of Injustices resulting from
Abuses of System
Both Exposed Scoundrels and Frauds with Enthusiasm
Dante's portraits "are more decisive, more
limited, more exclusively concentrated on ethical
definition; Chaucer's have room for more mundane,
personal, and morally neutral detail" (Norton [old
"General Prologue" Cast of Characters:
Wife of Bath
General Things to Consider:
Characterization: Relative "Goodness" and
Comparison to Dante
Piety vs. Hypocrisy
Relation of Story to Storyteller
Definitions of Terms
** Homework Questions ** Chaucer:
How does Chaucer's family history serve as "an example of
the increasing social fluidity of late medieval English
In what ways was Chaucer's England "the crucible of
What is a frame tale?
How does Chaucer's Wife of Bath support or contradict
misogynistic stereotypes of women at the time?
General Prologue: 1202:
When do people tend to go on pilgrimages? Why?
Where do they go? Why?
How are the Knight and the Squire different?
Is the Prioress described like a "typical" nun?
What does "Amor vincit omnia" (162) mean?
How is the Monk one who follows "the new ways of the
present day" (176)?
Other Discussion Questions: 1197:
In what ways does Chaucer's Canterbury Tales act as
the "foundation of the English poetic tradition" (1197)?
Describe the three periods of Chaucer's literary career.
Describe the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and its significance.
How do all the pilgrims here meet?
Explain: The Friar "was an easy man in giving
penance, / Where he knew he'd get more than a pittance"
Why does he know barmaids better than lepers?
Should things be otherwise? Explain.
Explain the symbolic significance of this description of
the Oxford student: "Quite threadbare was his outermost
short coat" (292).
What is a Franklin?
Who is Epicurus?
On what field is the Physician's medical practice based?
Who was Hippocrates?
What do gaps in a woman's teeth signify?
How does the Parson compare to the Friar?
How does the Plowman compare to his brother, the Parson?
What is a Manciple? a Miller? a Reeve? a
Summoner? a Pardoner?
What kind of character does the Manciple have?
Describe the Summoner's appearance. Does it fit his
Explain this reference to the Pardoner: "I think he
was gelding or a mare" (693).