The Squire in The Canterbury Tales: Description & Character Analysis

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  • 0:03 Physical Appearance & Stature
  • 0:59 Combat Skills
  • 1:48 The Fine Arts
  • 2:54 Who Is the Squire?
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joseph Altnether

Joe has taught college English courses for several years, has a Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies and a Master's degree in English literature.

The Squire presented in Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales' is a young man apprenticed to his father to be a knight. He has a tremendous amount of talent, but the question is whether his talents lie in combat or music and art.

Physical Appearance & Stature

The Squire of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is a young man of many talents. He's following in his father's footsteps and serving as an apprentice to become a knight. That's a huge responsibility. It may not be the path he actually wants to follow. The more that is revealed about the Squire's character, the more likely it seems that his talents lie elsewhere than on the battlefield. But first, let's look at whether he presents an imposing figure.

He stands about average height and appears to be 'athletic and strong.' These descriptions indicate that he's fit to serve as a knight and performs his duties well. Apart from this, the Squire is a young man, with no definitive age given other than a guess of about twenty. He has curly hair and is 'fresher than the month of May'. He is in the prime of his youth and on the verge of becoming a man. He seems ready to follow in his father's footsteps and become a knight.

Combat Skills

The Squire has been on the battlefield in brief skirmishes while on horseback, but nothing further is mentioned about his prowess on the battlefield or whether he demonstrates competency with a particular weapon. The Squire does use a carving knife well, serving his father during meal time. To be fair to the Squire, there's more to knighthood than making a mark on the battlefield.

When it's his turn to tell his tale, the Squire is interrupted by the Franklin, 'a country gentleman.' He mentions that the Squire is a fine young man, commends him for his wit, and says could stand as an example for his own son. Thus, there's no reason to doubt that the Squire wouldn't serve well or perform his duties as a knight. The question as to whether this suits him best arises when his other talents are mentioned.

The Fine Arts

Knowing that the Squire can tell a story well provides a glimpse into his talents. The Squire is very much musically inclined, able to play several instruments and sing well. He can 'joust and dance, and also draw and write'. Art and music perhaps are talents that help in entertaining others or wooing women. Yet when one considers that this young man is training to become a knight, placing an emphasis on these talents indicates that the squire's strengths lie elsewhere.

The tale of the Squire reveals a young man who burns with passion. His story is imaginative, set in a foreign locale, and examines a love affair gone awry. But when it is told that this young man 'so burningly he loved, that come nightfall/He'd sleep no more than any nightingale', it reveals a passion that shouldn't be buried. His story is the expression of his passion, which is rightly recognized by the Franklin. The Squire's passion for the arts, intellect, and idealized notion of life as described in his story, indicates a proclivity toward a romantic view of life.

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