According to Hoffman, critics of the Canterbury tales agree that portraits in the General Prologue are like “figures in a tapestry”. Commonplace about these portraits is the design of unity which has come out due to the outer body structure of the pilgrimage to Canterbury, as described by Chaucer, “Of sondry folk…In felaweshipe, and pilgrims were they alle”. According to Hoffman, the very fact that it is a pilgrimage is defined in the starting of the verse, here life is growing and flourishing where the pilgrims come together at the Tabard inn of Southwalk to visit the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. Pilgrimage starts at the spring time, a time of procreation and this pilgrimage is just one of the many roles of life. A pilgrimage, thus, is the solemnizing of marriage between the months of March and April and pilgrims are just events in the calendar of nature but in the calendar of piety, there is a journey from nature to beyond nature, to the pure hug with the ‘hooly blisful martir’.
Knight finds the opening lines of the general prologue appearing vivid, showing a craving to go on a pilgrimage. the same as described by Hoffman but there is a marked difference from thereon. Knight finds the lines ‘eliding’ because it changes course towards natural and secular characterization of the pilgrims. The social and historical complexity of the ‘sondry folk’ gathering in ‘felawshipe’ (25-26) follows on. Knight finds no such double meaning of pilgrimage as stated by Hoffman. To him, it is just the mention of the pilgrimage, the desire of which is found in all people of that times and that’s all.
Hoffman finds a symbolical pilgrimage from nature to supernatural also going on, showing a contrast between health and vitality in the opening lines and sickness in line 18. This sickness is symbolic of winter season or it could be related to inclement weather.