Chaucer's finest work begins at the Tabard Inn, where thirty travelers of widely varying classes and occupations are gathering to make the annual pilgrimage to Becket’s shrine at Canterbury. It is agreed that each traveler will tell four tales to help pass the time during their long journey, and that the host of the inn will reward the best storyteller with a free supper upon their return.
Thus we hear, translated into modern English, the knight’s tale, the merchant’s tale, the miller’s tale, the wife of Bath’s tale, twenty-some tales in all. Some are bawdy, some spiritual, some romantic, some mysterious, some chivalrous. Between the stories, the travelers converse, joke, and argue, revealing much of their individual outlooks upon life as well as what life was like in late-fourteenth-century England. Translated by J. U. Nicolson