The Yeoman in The Canterbury Tales: Description & Characterization

The Yeoman in The Canterbury Tales: Description & Characterization
Coming up next: The Manciple in The Canterbury Tales: Physical Description & Personality

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 The Yeoman Introduces Himself
  • 1:09 The Result of an…
  • 2:08 Guilt
  • 3:19 Road to Recovery
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

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 Yeoman joins the caravan to Canterbury late in Chaucer's ''The Canterbury Tales.'' The only description of this character comes from the Yeoman himself, and it proves to be more of a confessional as he tells all his sins.

The Yeoman Introduces himself

In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the Yeoman is an unhappy person. He is a young man who serves as an assistant in a job he does not like. His work has ruined him physically and financially. He knows that if he doesn't leave it soon, it will cause him further harm. He assists an alchemist in a search for the philosopher's stone, an item that supposedly changes any metal into precious metal. After seven years, the Yeoman has learned that this quest is a false dream, and it has ruined too many people. So, while among the travelers to Canterbury, the Yeoman reveals their secrets.

The Yeoman notices the travelers leaving 'very early in the morning from (this) inn', so he and his master ride their horses hard to catch up. When they finally came up to the group, the Yeoman begins to talk about his master with the host of the group. During their conversation, the Yeoman reveals that he considers his master 'an idiot and an ass.' These words reveal how miserable the Yeoman must be if he is willing to disparage his master in such a way before strangers. He holds himself in the same regard as his master.

The Result of an Unfortunate Decision

The minute the Yeoman goes to work for the alchemist, his life begins to change for the worse. The color and smell of the Yeoman's face has become unnatural. Instead of 'fresh and red/Now it is wan, and of a leaden hue'. His skin color has been altered due to exposure to a great number of chemicals, and 'blowing up the fire'. The dramatic changes to his appearance caused by this work also affect his future prospects.

What was once a nice, quiet, happy life has taken a turn for the worse. The Yeoman explains that seven years prior, he had nice clothes and wasn't hungry, and his skin had a healthy glow to it. Now, his skin has become ashen, and his clothes are worn and heavily mended. Worse is the burden he must carry that he is 'so deep in debt…I'll never pay it back.' This is the crux of the Yeoman's tale: the guilt that he carries around with him regarding his work. He tells his tale about alchemy not only to relieve some of the guilt, but to help warn others so they don't fall prey to these criminal schemes.

Guilt

The life of an alchemist involves more than laboratory work. An alchemist also need money, since their job is searching for fool's gold. As the Yeoman reveals, there is only one way to make money besides borrowing: con games. When the Yeoman begins to reveal these secrets, his service to the alchemist is over, yet he continues with his revelation anyway. He needs to unburden these sins from his soul. He needs to prevent others from falling prey, and does so through his story, which also serves as a confession.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support