The Sergeant of Law


Part One-
  • What specific occupation does your character practice?
    • At first we thought he was an officer. But he is actually a lawyer
  • What does the need for this occupation tell us about the time period?
    • A lot of crimes occured during this time - theft, etc. A sense of order was needed, so a court was created. Therefore lawyers were also needed.
  • What was his or her social standing?
    • He belongs in the middle class.‍‍‍‍
  • What might your character's day to day life be like?‍‍‍‍
    • He roamed the city, doing the following things: writingting contracts, performing in court, ensuring the law is being followed, and buying land (flaunting and spending his vast amount of money).
  • What details about this character does Chaucer not include?
    • Chaucer doesn't go into as much detail into the lawyer's looks and appearance as he does the other characters. Instead, he only elaborates on the Sergeant's clothing.
  • What modern day occupation might correspond to your medieval character and why?
    • Today, the Sergeant of Law may be considered as a lawyer/officer.

Part Two-
  • Paraphase.
    • A lawyer, observant and wise,
    • Had often been at the porch of Saint Paul's church
    • for advice, was also there - an excellent man.
    • He was sensible, and greatly respected,
    • or so he seemed, his words were very shrewd.
    • He had often been a judge in courts,
    • by appointment and by full commissions from the crown;
    • his knowledge and reputation had
    • won him many riches and clothing.
    • He was the greatest buyer of land;
    • all was fee-simple to him:
    • his title was never defective.
    • He was the busiest man -
    • And yet he seemed busier than he really was.
    • he knew all the cases and judgments
    • that occured since King William's time
    • He could make up a deed
    • so that no on could find fault in it
    • and he knew every law by heart.
    • He rode dressed in a weaved coat,
    • a silk belt with small metal ornaments around his waist.
    • Nothing else shall be said about his appearance.
  • Which lines in the prologue best describe your character's physical appearance?
    • 330-331: He rode simply dressed in a coat of mixed weave, gathered with a silk belt with small metal ornaments.
  • Which lines describe his/her personality?
    • 314: He was discreet, and greatly to be respected
    • 323: Nowhere was there a man as busy as he
    • 318: His knowledge and his high renown had won him many fees and robes.
  • Which specific words add to your understanding of the character's personality?
    • Wary, wise, excellent, discreet, greatly respected, renowned, knowledgeable

Part Three-
  • What is Chaucer's opinion toward this character?
    • Chaucer seems neutral towards the Sergeant of Law. There is a slight bit of criticism. Chaucer comments on the tendency of humans to pretend. The Sergeant of Law makes himself seem busier than he really is; he's trying very hard to look like he's earning his high paycheck when actually he's just kind of lazy. He has a very high opinion of himself. The Sergeant of Law is a social climber, and he continuously uses his profession to launch himself into upper class. It's easier for him to do this because nobility likes him; that's why the King often appoints him as a judge in the court.
  • What specific lines tell you this?
    • 323-324: Nowhere was there a man as busy as he - /and yet he seemed busier than he was.
    • 322: His title could never be found defective.
    • 316-317: He had often been a justice in assizes, /by appointment and by full commission
  • What word choices require an understand of vocabulary from the time period?
    • Saint Paul's: medieval cathedral
    • Consultation: a meeting with an expert in order to receive advice
    • Assizes: periodic criminal courts held in each county of England and Wales; they administered civil and criminal law
    • Justice: a judge or magistrate
    • Commission: the act of granting certain powers or the authority to carry out a particular task or duty
    • The time of King William the Conqueror: King William ruled from 1066 to 1087
    • Statute: a written law passed by legislative body


Works Cited

Lawyers Laid Bare: The Private Lives of Medieval and Early Tudor Lawyers. (2010, September 1). Retrieved September 14, 2011, from
Medieval Law. (2008, December 29). Retrieved September 14, 2011, from
Staff, T. (2008, May 11). The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer: Character Analysis/Main Characters. Retrieved September 14, 2011, from
The Canterbury Tales. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2011, from
The Canterbury Tales Summary and Analysis of General Prologue. (1999- 2011). Retrieved September 14, 2011, from Gradesaver:
The Canterbury Tales: Character List. (2011). Retrieved September 14, 2011, from Sparknotes:
University, S. (2011). The Sergeant of the Law in The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story. Retrieved September 14, 2011, from Schmoop: We Speak Student:
Whipps, H. (2006, August 3). Medieval Justice Not So Medieval. Retrieved September 14, 2011, from Livescience: