25 Canterbury Tales Quotes from the Beloved Poem

Reminisce in some classic English literature with our The Canterbury Tales quotes.

Six hundred years later, Canterbury Tales remain one of the most beloved pieces of English literature.

Find out why this work is so beloved with our Canterbury Tales quotes below. 

What are The Canterbury Tales?

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the most popular books written in medieval England. 

Over ninety copies have survived six centuries from the 1400s. 

Check out these interesting facts about The Canterbury Tales:

  • Chaucer’s choice to write in Middle English was a big deal for ordinary folks
  • The Canterbury Tales is an incomplete epic; Chaucer finished 24 of 100 stories
  • A free app recites The Canterbury Tales in Middle English and offers modern translations 

What is The Canterbury Tales about?

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales as a magnum opus.

The story is told in the form of a long poem or an epic. 

The poem is about a group of pilgrims on their way to visit a shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.

The host at the inn the pilgrims are staying suggests a contest to make the trip more fun and pass the time on the long journey.

He suggests that each traveler tell two stories; one on their way to the holy site and another on the way home. 

The best storyteller is promised a prize of a free dinner on their return. 

From here, we get thirty unique stories from various travelers.

Everyone gets a chance to share a story, knights, cooks, carpenters, millers, cuckolds, and wives. 

Much of their stories are comical and tell of unhappy marriages, greedy gamblers, and lazy fieldhands.

Why is The Canterbury Tales a classic?

The story is considered a classic for several reasons. 

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Chaucer uses the characters in his tale to paint a series of vivid pictures of the world from diverse perspectives.

People from various lots of life create a colorful tapestry from a broad cross-section of society.

Critics and readers consider The Canterbury Tales a classic because it is one of the most famous pieces of English literature written in Middle English. 

Today many people take literacy for granted, but six centuries ago, educated people were often elites. 

When Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, many of the British elites spoke 

French, since England was under siege by an invasion from Normandy. 

Chaucer took a risk to write his most significant piece in Middle English, and his choice paid off as it invoked national pride for his fellow citizens. 

For more information, check out our The Canterbury Tales quotes below. 

Short The Canterbury Tales quotes about life

Check out these nuggets of wisdom from The Canterbury Tales

1. “People can die of mere imagination.” John, The Miller’s Tale, The Canterbury Tales

2. “Marriage is a misery and a woe.” — Wife of Bath, The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale

3. “Do evil and be done by as you did.” — Reeve, The Reeve’s Prologue and Tale, The Canterbury Tales

4. “Tricksters will get a tricking, so say I.” — Reeve, The Reeve’s Prologue and Tale, The Canterbury Tales

5. “However, all that glitters is not gold, And that’s the truth as we’re so often told.” — Canon’s Yeoman, The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue and Tale

Famous The Canterbury Tales quotes for everyday people

The beauty of The Canterbury Tales is how it authentically invokes daily life.

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6. “He found sufficiency in little things.” Parson, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

7. “A medal of St. Christopher he wore.” — Yeoman, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

8. “None had ever caught him in arrears.” — Reeve, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

9. “His wits to work, none knew he was in debt.” Merchant, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

10. “When he was drunk, such tags as he was pat in.” — Summoner, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales quotes and sayings about love and power

Here are some memorable quotes about power and love. 

11. “And if you take a wife into your bed, you’re very likely to be cuckolded.” — Merchant, The Merchant’s Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

12. “Well, is it said that neither love nor power admit a rival, even for an hour.” — Knight, The Knight’s Tale, The Canterbury Tales

13. “Lovers must each be ready to obey the other if they would long keep company.”  — Franklin, The Franklin’s Prologue and Tale

14. “It’s well to be upon one’s guard, I mean, since all day long we meet the unforeseen.” — Knight, The Knight’s Tale, The Canterbury Tales

15. “See how Dame Fortune quickly changes side and robs her enemy of hope and pride!” — Nun’s Priest, The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, The Canterbury Tales

The top The Canterbury Tales quotes to make you laugh

Check out these hilarious quotes from The Canterbury Tales.

16. “His horse was thinner than a rake, and he was not too fat, I undertake.” — Oxford Cleric, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

17. “Loving God best with all his heart and mind and then his neighbor as himself.” — Plowman, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

18. “She’d had five husbands, all at the church door, apart from other company in youth; — Wife of Bath, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

19. “Then he would shout and jabber as if crazy, and wouldn’t speak a word except in Latin.” — Summoner, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

20. “And on his hood, to fasten it at his chin, he had a wrought-gold cunningly fashioned pin; Into a lover’s knot it seemed to pass.” — Monk, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

The best The Canterbury Tales quotes from The Prologue

Here are some of the most memorable lines from the poem’s prologue. 

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21. “He’d sewed a holy relic on his cap; His wallet lay before him on his lap.” Pardoner, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

22. “He was an easy man in penance-giving. Where he could hope to make a decent living.” Friar, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

23. “Brimful of pardons come from Rome all hot. He had the same small voice a goat has got.” Pardoner, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

24. “He could make songs and poems and recite. Knew how to joust and dance, to draw and write.” Squire, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

25. “He much disliked extorting tithe or fee, Nay rather, he preferred beyond a doubt.
Giving to the poor parishioners round about. From his own goods and Easter offerings.” Parson, Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

What is your favorite tale?

Which of The Canterbury Tales is your favorite?

Is it The Knight, The Wife of Bath, or Reveling Peterkin?

Be sure to let us know in the comments below. 

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