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Lesson Plan for Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales: Analyzing Character in "The General Prologue"

Updated on August 20, 2012

This lesson plan is the fourth of five in a mini-unit devoted to the Middle Ages, Chaucer, and “The General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales. Appropriate for high school students, the first lesson introduced the history of the medieval period.

The second lesson plan draws on this knowledge with a creative writing lesson plan aimed to cement their knowledge of the feudal system.

The third lesson plan in this unit is centered on the study of ballads. Its objective is for students to familiarize themselves with some of Chaucer’s contemporaries and the popular writing style during the end of the 14th century.

Finally, students are ready to begin their study of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales “General Prologue” in the fourth lesson plan in this unit. This activity assumes that they have already read the “General Prologue” either in class or as homework.

Supplies Needed

Markers, Crayons, and/or Colored Pencils. Butcher paper. The text of Chaucer’s “General Prologue.”

Background Information

We begin with a short lecture on direct and indirect characterization. I usually ask the class to come up with several examples, unrelated to the text, to help us see the difference between telling and showing.


Based on your class size, students will break into either pairs or groups of three. Each team will then be assigned to analyze one of the characters featured in Chaucer’s “General Prologue.”

The analysis will be completed on a piece of butcher paper and will take the following form:

  1. Consider the description of your character provided in "The General Prologue"; draw an accurate picture of him/her on your piece of butcher paper
  2. Select three (3) passages from the text (remember to cite by page and line number!) that indirectly characterize your character.
  3. Select three (3) passages from the text (remember to cite here, too!) that directly characterize your character.
  4. Write three (3) adjectives that you think best describe what this character is really like.

After all teams have completed the analysis, students share their work. I usually hang their papers around the classroom. This helps us remember all the many characters as we conquer the rest of The Canterbury Tales.

What's Next?

Ready for the final lesson plan in this mini-unit? The fifth lesson is a creative writing exercise that makes The Canterbury Tales relevant to the modern day.


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