The Lawyer of the Canterbury Tales

Come to serve the Goddess of Law with the Sergeant of Law!

Man on the Job Q&A

Q: What was his occupation?

A: Around the time of William of the Conqueror, our young, educated man would be the best man to have in the courts. No matter what case, whether it's large or small, he will have the solution for he knows all of England's laws. Mainly consulting his clients at the St. Paul's Cathedral of London with a price of some of your land.

Q: Why was they important to the Middle Ages?

A: Sergeants of law are needed due to the their creation of the France's Court of Common Pleas to study law for sixteen years and are the only candidates to judge in the courts, including the King's Bench, and settle cases of the king's people. At the time, they were highest rank in law profession out of all the land. From the Order of the Coif, a council of court justices, an account given by Sir John Fortesque applies that seven or eight persons of mature age and more proficient in the justice of the law shall served his king's commands to estate himself as sergeant of law. This account was written down by Alexander Pulling to create the order's importance.

Q: What was their social standing?

A:The Sergeants at Law were very high in the Middle Ages for he tends to be sly. He gains most of his land by allowing his clients to pay him part of their land. Based on his profession, he is most likely trusted to be permitted as judge for the courts.

Q:What do they do on their daily basis?

A: Most of the sergeants time are based on studying all of English law. If a case is needed to be settled, the Court of Common Pleas are most likely to have the most active. When royal case is brought up, the Court of King's Bench is used for nobles. Most of these cases involved disputes between property, family and work areas.

Q: What did Chaucer did not include on this person?

A: What Chaucer did not include the most significant peace of lawyer's clothing: a close fitting, white hood called a coif, creating the Order of the Coif. This is what creates the traditional wig of the court judges. And before the name Sergeant of law was created, they were called contours meaning story teller in french.

Q: What occupations would relate to this?

A: There three occupations that relates to the Sergeant at Law. Attorney, Prosecutor, and Judge. The attorney defends those who have been framed or committed crime. They must understand the consequences with their defendants and the rules of courts. Prosecutors do the opposite of the attorneys for they have to prove that those who have committed crime are the actual criminal. The Judge is in the middle for they must hear from both sides. If either sides violates the law in court with forged evidence, one side is favored by default.

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About the Sergeant...

The Man of Law's Tale Prologue:

Such hatred pity, for am I in poverty

Harsh colds and horrible hunger

To ask help with shameful heart

Under noon and bitter sorrow, you may ask

The truth from hidden wounds shall be revealed

Despite for those who are in poverty

or steals, begs, or borrow your supplies

Though you blame Christ and cease in agony

He departed with his richest temporarily

The neighbor you see that sins

And cease to seek light from him

Sometimes he takes consideration

When his tale shall burn in glee

For he has not help the need in his need

Listen to my wise sentence:

"Better to die than to be in poverty

To despise your own neighbor.

If you are poor, you have no dignity

But the wise man take this sentence.

"Of all days of the poor man's life,

With his brother's hatred

And all of his friends, fled from him, alas.

The rich merchants, full of wealth

The nobles and rude folk in that case!

Your bags had been filled with bad luck,

but sunk with the chance to redeem themselves

At Christmas, may you dance merrily!

Those who seek from land and sea for their winnings

Wise folk you know will have recognize your rank

Of reigns, you have been the father of tidings

And tales, both of peace and war

I will tell my tale, more interesting

Than that merchant's tale

That you shall now hear.

Chaucer's Observations:

Sir Lawyer, a man of intelligence yet suspicious

Always chooses his words wisely to gain the trust of the

King's people

Knows England's law from the back of his hands

And written many documents since King's Williams time

Whether it is consulting clients

Day by day at the St. Paul Cathedral in London

Or when judging and deciding the ruling

of the King's Court

He seems to gain more land by the second

Though he may look like the busiest man at that time

It's almost as if that was an illusion

Always traveled in a multi-colored trench coat

With some pins and a silk belt...

That's all I can say about his clothing.

(Lines 309-330)

The Sergeant wears a multicolored coat and its very tacky (Line 338-330). He is said to be wise (Line 309 of the Lawyer and Line 113 of the Lawyer's Tale Prologue). He is one of the biggest landowners of the land (Line 317-320). Seems to use cathedrals as his workplace which would explain the Sergeant's education and be trusted in the King's Court (Line 315-316).






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What does Chaucer see in this Character?

Based on his views, not much is said about the Sergeant of Law. On line 311 and 312, Chauncer sees the Sergeant using his intelligence to pick his words wisely on the King's people. In doing so, he asked the fees of land on Line 317 as payment to his own land instead of the people winning some land on Line 318-319 for this is how the Sergeant became a big landowner and lived wealthy. Yet in the Lawyer's prologue, Line 99, he says to the rest of the characters of the Canterbury Tales that he is in poverty and in his wise sentence on Line 113, Line 114 states that is better to die off than live in poverty which brings conflict to Chauncer's view. Is the lawyer honest or such a liar to misuse intelligence to gain wealth and fame?

What I see in Chauncer's view, it shows he really doesn't like the character of the Lawyer. Seems most of the Noble Rankings are very disliked by him due to misusing power, can be very deceiving when known for their profession and can steal behind the backs of the King's People.

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Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Sergeant of the Law in The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story." Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

"Canterbury Tales Prologue Page 8." SparkNotes. SparkNotes. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

"Serjeant at Law." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. 10 Mar. 2016<>.

Strong, Frank R. "COIF-history." COIF-history. English Antecedents and American Adaptation, Dec. 1977. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400) "The Canterbury Tales" (in Middle English and Modern English). Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

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