Date of Award

Summer 1968

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




It is thought that Chaucer began composing The Canterbury Tales as a dramatic whole around 1387. This is his last and by f ar his best known work. In this final. masterpiece Chaucer undertakes the tremendous task or presenting in poetic form a whole society. However, he does not merely explore society in general; he also develops the theme or the individual's relation to the community and the integral part that each person plays in making up the whole. The Canterbury Tales is, as George Lyman Kittredge so aptly puts it, "a micro cosmography" or a little image of a great world.

This paper will be confined to one order or that society, the Ecclesiastical. It will also be primarily concerned with those ecclesiastics who actually appear during the pilgrimage. Before judging whether Chaucer gives a true picture of the churchmen of this period, the reader must examine the state or the Church during the fourteenth century. Therefore, the first chapter of this study will concern its organization and some or the events which took place within the Church during this era.