Geoffrey Chaucer’s collection of stories titled The Canterbury Tales reflected the governing, social, and religious beliefs of Medieval England. The medieval government consisted of a feudal system in which the king and other upper nobility maintained power over the rest of society. This structure of government was presented in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” through the sentencing of a knight by the king for the knight’s crime of breaking the code of chivalry. Social customs in the Middle Ages held that women be subservient to men, and the high social standards expected of men were also upheld.
“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” illustrated both of these social principles through the breaking of the chivalric code by the knight and the Wife of Bath even reversing the typical theme of the dominance of women by men. Pilgrimages and Church corruption were two of the main subjects of Medieval religion. In “The Prologue,” Chaucer specifically described why the pilgrims joined and collectively traveled to Canterbury, as well as describing the Pardoner, who sold indulgences and kept the money for himself.
The governing, social, and religious views of Medieval England were each exemplified by Chaucer through “The Prologue” and “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.”
The Middle Ages focused on feudalism as its system of government, meaning that the king and other higher nobility retained control over all other classes. This feudal system broke the population down into class sections which included the king, barons, knights, serfs, and clergy. Because the king had so much land in his possession, he granted some of this land to barons of his choosing.
These barons in turn would provide the king with knightly military service as well as payment for the land. In return for all the duties the knight provided, the knight would receive a fraction of the land from the baron who owned it. The clergy was another class, but serfs were the final and lowest rung on the feudal system ladder. As the lowest class in society, serfs did not have any rights. However, serfs were able to live on knights’ land as long as they provided them with labor, service, and food.
Jeffrey L. Singman wrote that even though “commerce came to play an increasingly important role in the economy of the High Middle Ages, land remained the greatest and most reliable source of wealth” (Singman 4). This was why the land was treated as such a precious resource and the lower classes provided different services for the classes above them to receive land from them.