Geoffrey Chaucer ‘The Canterbury Tales – The General Prologue’ ctd.

We’re moving into the middle/professional class. The first one in this section is a “Sergeant of the Lawe”, or the lawyer. He is an excellent lawyer, well-skilled in writing land deeds and other areas of law. He is also very successful financially and buys a lot of land. The Franklin is a rich farmer, so not an aristocratic land-owner but somebody probably rich enough to employ a lot of staff to do the dirty farm work for him. He is red-faced, white-bearded and his greatest pleasure is food. At his home the table is always ready and set for a meal (as opposed to the usual medieval practice, when tables were dismounted from their trestles when not in use). He is also very hospitable. He holds various posts in his county, including representing it in the Parliament. Finally we have the representatives of the urban middle class – the haberdasher, the dyer, the carpenter, the weaver and the “Tapicer”, or tapestry maker. They wear the uniforms of their respective guilds and they are quite prosperous, as can be seen by their knives, which are mounted not on brass but silver handles. They all have aspirations to be aldermen, in which they are strongly supported by their wives, who would love to be called “Madam”, as behoves an alderman’s wife. They took with them a cook to prepare their meals. He is a skilled cook, but he is troubled by an ulcer on his shin. However, there’s no man who can prepare a better blancmange than him, adds Chaucer, somewhat irrelevantly. By the way, blancmange is nowadays a dessert, but in the Middle Ages it was a luxury dish made with almonds, sugar and chicken. The chicken seems as incongruous as the mention about the Cook’s ulcer.

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