International Journal of Arts & Sciences, vol.07, no.5, pp.49-60, 2014 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)
Marked by feudalism and three estates - the clergy, warriors and commoners, the medieval
world consisted of a hierarchical community that can be most apparently observed in the
regulation of the food and clothing for the different estates. Yet, this so-called strict hierarchy
shaped by three estates was shuttered by the decline of feudalism due to the consequences of the Black Death, and Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 in the late Middle Ages. Accordingly, the
boundaries among the estates were blurred by social mobility which enabled the aspiring
commoners to rise on the social ladder through wealth, marriage and royal favour, forming a
new middle-class of social climbers. In time, the members of this new class, especially
merchants, became stronger as they created close contacts with the members of the nobility.
This closeness, however, established the base for an identity crisis bringing about hybridity for the social climbers as they were commoners aspiring to belong to the nobility, yet, this did not seem possible since they lacked noble blood. A keen observer of his time, Geoffrey Chaucer, widely accepted as the father of the English literature, dealt with the emergence of this new middle- class and the conflicts between this middle-class and the rest of the society in his masterpiece, the Canterbury Tales. To some critics, Chaucer’s treatment of those conflicts was an attack on this new class as Chaucer himself favoured the social stability and hierarchy. Yet, there is an unavoidable fact that Chaucer himself, with his ambiguous status deriving from his conflicting mercantile (middle-class) and courtly (gentle) background, was one of the most significant representatives of those medieval hybrids of the late Middle Ages. Thereby, this article, analysing the related parts of the Canterbury Tales and Chaucer’s related short poems, aims to discuss medieval hybrids, including Chaucer, who experienced hybridity as they were caught in between the fixed identities of their times and lived in a kind of “third space”, as suggested by Homi K. Bhabha, in the borders of the three estates of the late fourteenth century.