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Literary Beasts: Use of Animal Imagery in The Canterbury Tales

By Morgan Kentsbeer

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Through this paper I am going to argue that animals from the Middle Ages held more worth and were often considered to be more important than their modern counterparts. This gets shown through the three types of ways that animals are used within The Canterbury Tales. First, they are used as allegorical shorthands that imply more meaning with a fewer amount of words; this concept is primarily shown in “The Miller’s Tale” and “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” Secondly, animals are crafted into characters but still end up being used as tools by other characters or Chaucer himself. For this, I explore “The Manciple’s Tale” and the animal fable of the collection, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” Lastly, animals are shown within The Canterbury Tales as just depictions of everyday life. From these specific depictions, readers are able to derive more information about the characters that they are associated with. For this I use “The Reeve’s Tale,” “The Friar’s Tale,” and “The General Prologue.” From all of these uses and depictions, Geoffrey Chaucer presents animals as being more diversely employed by the medieval people.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Pages 36
Language English
University Ursinus College
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animals in literature.
  3. open access
  1. open access