This introductory guide places the Canterbury Tales in the context of the crisis in English society in the fourteenth century. It examines the social diversity of Chaucer's pilgrims, the stylistic range of their tales and the psychological richness of their interaction. The volume offers students a clear image of the powerful representation of the social reality that makes the Canterbury Tales one of the most important texts in English literature. Emphasis is placed on the language of the poem, the place of Chaucer in subsequent literary tradition, and an entire chapter is devoted to the General Prologue which is widely studied on undergraduate courses. Finally, the volume offers a helpful chronology of the period and an invaluable guide to further reading.