In his General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer presents three major attempts at authorial voicing. Through the voices of his “clerk,” his pilgrim, and Harry Bailly, he explores the poet's roles and the limits of poetry. A clerkly voice, assuming the authority of a philosopher, speaks the opening eighteen lines. The pilgrim, who occupies a privileged position among the three voices, guides the central section of the Prologue, as he defines a complex, tenuous, dialogic relationship with his materials—the other pilgrims and the mortal world. The last of the voices—Harry Bailly's—introduces a theory of poetry as mirthful distraction, unmoored in the quest for truth. Chaucer's multivoiced exploration of poetic authority dramatizes a wide range of medieval attitudes toward poetry. The poet's purpose is not to arrive at a “correct” notion but to raise questions about what fiction and language can and cannot do.