THE CANTERBURY TALES Prologue Day 2 of 2

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SWBAT demonstrate understanding of the diversity of characters in the Prologue of THE CANTERBURY TALES through writing and discussion.

Big Idea

"If we don't accept ourselves for who we are and where we've come from, who will?" --Silvia Rojas

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

I explore the hero's journey with my students throughout the year by exploring works from Beowulf to Macbeth.  This lesson originally appears in a unit for The Canterbury Tales on CC.BetterLesson.

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions. The lesson plan below outlines day two of The Prologue of The Canterbury Tales: Instead of having students read the entire Prologue, I jigsaw the section, assigning a character to each student for analysis and introduction (Assignment: Revised Prologue Assignment) to the class.  Character introductions (Student Work: Sample 1 - Prologue Assignment) take place today.



15 minutes

At the beginning of class, I give students an opportunity to review and practice their assigned Prologue character introductions (Student Work: Sample 1 of Prologue Assignment) with a partner prior to presenting them to the class. They can go back to the text and revise their introductions as needed.

Next, as a class, we review the premise of The Canterbury Tales: 

  • Twenty-nine pilgrims from various backgrounds are going on a Spring pilgrimage from London to the Shrine of the Archbishop of Canterbury to pray for help 
  • To make the trip more enjoyable, the Host holds a storytelling contest with each pilgrim telling to stories on the way to Canterbury and two stories on the way back to London.
  • The Host will judge the contest, and the winner will receive a supper at the Tabard Inn paid for by the losing pilgrims.

Prologue Character Introductions

35 minutes

Students present their character introductions (Student Work: Sample 2 - Prologue Assignment). When each character presents, I have the class turn to that particular character's section in the text to revisit it for clarification if necessary.  If students have questions for a particular character, they ask them. Some questions are about matters the text leaves uncertain, and students attempt to take the point of view of their assigned characters when answering them. Sample student questions for characters are as follows:

  • Franklin: How did you become so wealthy? Was there ever a moment in which you rejected someone in need of your generosity?
  • Cook: What do you wish to gain from going to Canterbury? Why do you keep to yourself?
  • Merchant: Why are you in debt? What influenced you to be a merchant?
  • Woman from Beside Bath City (Wife of Bath): How do you deal with being slightly deaf?  Do you have a husband now?
  • Oxford Cleric: Have you practiced alchemy? Why is education so important to you?
  • Yeoman: Why does no other servant want to ride with the Knight? Why do you have the medal of St. Christopher?
  • Reeve: Why do you have such a bad temper at times? Does your master have a problem with you? Explain.


When students are done presenting their introductions, we revisit:

  • the diversity of the characters and make predictions about whether or not the characters will get along on the journey
  • Chaucer's tendency to have his characters' tales reflect who they are.