The Emerging Middle Class in Late Medieval England

888 WordsJun 21, 20184 Pages
Written by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the fourteenth century, The Canterbury Tales and more specifically it’s prologue, shed a great deal of light on the rising middle class in (fourteenth century) England. Despite the fact that some readers may not know a lot about the time period today, Chaucer’s writing in the prologue elaborates on topics such as occupations, wealth, education, and political power. Scholar Barbara Nolan writes of the prologue, “it is more complex than most…It raises expectations in just the areas the handbooks propose, promising to take up important matters of natural and social order, moral character, and religion and outlining the organization the work will follow” (Nolan 154). In other words, while noting the…show more content…
Despite the actual terms of “wealth,” “income,” or “money” seldom being used in the prologue, each character did in many ways give hints of their financial standings by the way in which they led their lives. For example, the Prioress seemed to live a comfortable middle class life based on descriptions such as “speaking French fluently,” “had meat on which to dine,” and “she was so charitable” (Chaucer 124-143). Based on simple assumptions, it seems fair to say that the prioress made modest wages to fund her style of living. While she may not have been bathed in riches like the nobility, she certainly had the resources to be educated (literate), eat meat for dinner, and donate to the poor who certainly did not have what she had. On the topic of the Prioress’ literacy and “fluent French,” it seemed as though education was a common blessing amongst all of the middle class (Chaucer 124-125). Researcher Tim Lambert in, The Daily Life in England in The Middle Ages wrote that, “grammar schools began opening up across England and it was not uncommon for middle class children to educated” in the traditional sense (Lambert). While the characters in the prologue had already been educated in their homeland, their offspring and generations of middle class citizens to come would all be educated. Another example of education in the prologue was when the narrator spoke of the clerk. Despite there not

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