More than a pilgrim less than a wife: Harry Bailly in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

Yıldız N.

RumelİDE Journal of Language and Literature Studies, vol.25, pp.1140-1150, 2021 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)


Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims in his monumental work The Canterbury Tales have been widely treated

by the scholars who produced copious articles and books on the countless matters focusing on each

pilgrim. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to Harry Bailly, the striking innkeeper of the text.

Bailly guides a group of medieval people of different ranks to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in

Canterbury which introduces the reader to the greatest panorama of the medieval period. As the main

framework of the text, Bailly asks pilgrims to tell stories on their way to Canterbury. Bailly does not

tell a story himself; yet, he becomes so successful in handling of the disputes among the pilgrims and

putting all of them in order; and every time he has a say for the stories as well as the story tellers. He

is also very cautious about the traditional three estates order which constitutes the backbone of the

medieval society. The Canterbury Tales can be envisaged without any of its pilgrims, but not without

a Harry Bailly. He is the authoritative figure, and a know-it-all. Throughout the text, he performs

divergent roles as a host, a leader, a judge, a critic and a governor. Although his commanding position

is impeded by his domineering wife, taken as another Wife of Bath in the paper, Bailly occupies a

unique position as the maestro of the pilgrims. Accordingly, this paper aims to dwell on Harry Bailly

in the Canterbury Tales to present him as the inalienable yet neglected character of the masterpiece

of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Keywords: Geoffrey Chaucer, the Canterbury Tales, medieval period, Harry Bailly