Literary authors, especially those with other occupations, must come to grips with the question of why they should write at all, when the world urges them to devote their time and energy to other pursuits. They must reach, at the very least, a provisional conclusion regarding the relation between the uncertain value of their literary efforts and the more immediate values of their non-authorial social identities. Geoffrey Chaucer, with his several middle-strata identities, grappled with this question in a remarkably searching, complex manner. In this book, Robert J. Meyer-Lee examines the multiform, dynamic meditation on the relation between literary value and social identity that Chaucer stitched into the heart of The Canterbury Tales. He traces the unfolding of this meditation through what he shows to be the tightly linked performances of Clerk, Merchant, Franklin and Squire, offering the first full-scale reading of this sequence.