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THE PROLOGUE TO THE CANTERBURY TALES:

CHAUCERS REALISM: THE PROLOGUE AS A PICTURE OF CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY:

Literature reflects the tendencies of the age in which it is produced. There is always a great literary artist who becomes the mouthpiece of his age and gives expression to its hopes and intimate ideas in his works. Such an artist was Alexander Pope in the 17th century, the age of classicism, and such a poet was Alfred Tennyson in the Victorian Age, during the 19th Century. Pope faithfully represents his Age in his poems such as The Rape of the Lock. In The Rape of the Lock the poet directs his attention to the fashions of the ladies of fashion represented by Arabella Fermor. Like Pope, Tennyson was equally the mouthpiece of the Victorian Society, and represented the ideal traditions and hopes of the people. He reflected the fancies and sentiments of Victorian England. In the Princess, the poet displayed one of the rising questions of the daythat of the higher education of society. Like Pope and Tennyson, Chaucer too represents his own Age and holds the mirror to the life of his time. He is truly the social historian of England in the late 14th Century. His poetry reflects the 14th Century as a complete whole. Other poets of his Age draw attention to only certain limited aspects of the time such as Wycliffe shows us the religious reformation; Gower the fear produced in the wealthier class by the farmer rising; and Leyland the corruption in the church. Each of these authors throws light only on one aspect of the 14th Century life. It is Chaucers greatness that he shows not one aspect of his time only, but all its wide and different faces of life. Chaucer gives us a direct view of reality and a true picture of daily life. Chaucer symbolizes the Middle Ages. But under the medievalism a trend of Renaissance is already at work. The poet stands on the dividing way linking himself with the old world that was passing away and the birth of the new age that was peeping at the horizon. Realism: Chaucer was a realist and he revealed the truth about life as he saw it. Before him, the writers were lost in the world of dreams and allegories. In his French Period, Chaucer too was an allegorist, but in the English Period he put away the dreamy allegory and came out with healthy observations about the life that he found unfolding before his eyes. He had the Seeing Eye; the sharp memory and judgment. Thus his observations about his times are true and realistic.

Chaucers realism comes out in the setting of The Canterbury Tales. The pilgrimage to the holy shrine by a group of pilgrims belonging to all classes of society except the aristocracy, and the unruly crowd provide Chaucer a fitting world of 14th Century life. Chaucer gives us a show of real world people with their real follies and virtues. Chaucer gives the solid touch of realism in the portrayal of his characters. The minute and detailed manner in which each character is set forth in his dress, manner and behaviour, tends to realism. Each character, the Miller, the Reeve, the Cook and the Carpenter, by his ways, comments, narration and humour ads to the impression of realism that Chaucer seeks to present in the Canterbury Tales. Chivalry: Chaucers poetry reflects the chivalric spirit of the Medieval Ages. The 14th Century was still in fascinating hold of chivalry and knighthood. In the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer reflects the fading chivalry in the Middle Ages represented in the person of the Knight, and rising chivalry of his own times reflected in his son, a young Squire. The old knight was a brave warrior. He had fought fifteen mortal battles all for the defense of religion. He was the true symbol of the old world of knighthood that was passing away giving place to a new conception of chivalry represented by his son the young Squire, who in spite of his military achievements, was a man of happy go lucky nature. The young Squire was hardly as sober and intelligent as was his father, the embodiment of the old world of chivalry. He was a knight of marry making. His chivalry was more luxurious and less idealistic temper of the age of great French war. He was not lost in the dreams of warfare like the knights of old, but he took delight in singing and playing upon the flute. 2 Political Conditions of the Time:

Chaucer realistically presented the political conditions of his times. He referred to the Peasant Revolt in which bands of farmers armed with weapons turned out from villages and looted, burned and killed the aristocracy of the Age. This revolt is told in the Clerks Tale and in the Nuns Tale.

Chaucer had no love and liking for the rebellion and hence in his works we have few references to these popular movements of the people out for snatching power from the noble. The Canterbury Tales contain few references to the plague. His references to the agitations and the plague are casual. Chaucer wrote for the court and cultivated classes to whom the sufferings of the poor were a matter of complete indifference. In Chaucers presentations of the Carpenter, Dyer and Haberdasher, we meet the new power that these commoners were getting at this time. Trade and Commerce:

The 14th Century was the age of rise of the rich and prosperous merchants and tradesmen. They carried splendid business with European countries and were laying the foundations of Englands industrial prosperity. Small traders and handicraftsmen grew in power and began to behave like well-to-do citizens. The importance and self-consciousness of the smaller tradesmen increased with that of great merchants. The middle class people began to come into prominence and contested seats for parliament. Chaucer makes reference to the rise of traders and merchants during his time and his Merchant is the symbol of those merchants of that time. Medical Profession:

Chaucers Doctor of Physic is an excellent picture of the medieval medicine man. He has herbal remedies and knowledge of astronomy and astrology. He is also a priest, but, Chaucer indicates that his medical studies have drawn him away from his profession. Religious Conditions:

Chaucer tells us about religious conditions of his times by creating the characters belonging to the church in the prologue. He does not directly points out the corruption among the clergymen of the times but he certainly presents realistically the degeneration that had set in religious life of the times. The clergymen instead of devoting their time and energy to religious meditation and genuine salvation of fallen souls had given themselves up to corruption and Epicureanism. The picture of the Clergy as presented by Chaucer is not at all encouraging. The monks had forgotten their original rule of poverty and labour. Chaucers Monk is fat and well-fed individual who is more interested in hunting than in the performance of his religious duties. The Friar is a corrupt fellow and he knows all the town taverns and every inn keeper and bar-maid better than the beggar-woman. The Franklin is still worse. He is a pleasure seeker and is pleased with drinking and fine eating. The Summoner, the Pardoner are traders in religion selling religious pardon to those who seek their blessing for money. Chaucer presents these religious figures of his times in their true coloures. Chaucer gives his ideal of a true clergyman in the figure of the Parson. The Parson is a learned man faithfully preaching Christ gospel. He is holy and virtuous. Condition of Women:

Chaucer throws light on the condition of women of his times in the Prologue as well as in the Tales. Chaucers Tales contain bitter attacks on women in keeping with the conventional attitude of men towards sex. In the Nuns Priests Tale, Chaucer points out that a husband who follows the advice of his wife will come to grief. In the Prologue Chaucer has presented three ladies: The Prioress, a Nun, and the Wife of Bath. These ladies are good representatives of the women of his times.

Table Manners:

Chaucer also reveals the conditions of the inns of his times and the table manners of the pilgrims. We gather from Chaucer that inns were situated at some distances and beer was also served in places other than these inns. There is also a discourse on table manners of the age in the Prologue. Each guest brought his own knife, but for common use there were no forks. At the beginning and end of dinner everyone washed his hands. 3 Love for Display and Extravagance:

Chaucer represents faithfully the love for display, an extravagance in the upper and lower classes of 14th Century life. This love for display is shown in several characters of the Prologue. The horse of the Knight was decked with finery. The wife of Bath decked herself with kerchiefs and finery. The youthful Squire also put on fine dresses. The Spirit of New Learning:

Through the character of the Clerk of Oxford Chaucer has presented the interest that people of his age started talking in classical writers. The new learning began to be popular at this time, as can be seen in the case of the Clerk of Oxford Conclusion:

In all these ways it can be said unhesitatingly that Chaucer is the historian of his age and he reflects his century not in fragments but almost completely. He heralds the birth of new humanism and the dawn of the Renaissance, and at the same time he clearly brings before us the traditions and conventions which his age had inherited from the Middle Ages.

THE PROLOGUE TO THE CANTERBURY TALES: CHAUCERS HUMOUR:

Chaucer was a born humorist. He was the master of humour and irony. He was the first true humorist in English Literature, and it is by his humour that Chaucer has won a permanent place in the hearts of his

readers. Mansfield calls him, a great Renaissance gentleman mocking the Middle Ages. Humour was the stuff and substance of his entire mental constitution and the essence of his art. It was the colour of humour that gave the lively touch of his poetry and made it a fountain of liveliness and joy. It was his humour that strengthened him against all misfortunes and enabled him to retain the freshness of his youth in spite of many miseries. He was a great master of humour and all his writings abound in it in all its rich variety. He belongs to great humorists of English literature.

Chaucers humour is essentially English in character. Just as Chaucers personality was English, the ring of his humour is equally English. Lowell gives expression to the humour of Chaucer in the following words: Chaucers is essentially an English humour. It is not the wit of the Frenchman. His humour is born of a strong commonsense and a generous sympathy and these are the qualities of the great English humorists like Shakespeare and Fielding.

To grasp the secret of Chaucers humour it is well to remember that Chaucer with all his wide learning was a great humanist. He was essentially the poet of man intensely interested in man and his affairs. He had large humanity and good humoured tolerance. He had no disliking for fools and no hate for rascals. While gently unmasking the evil of the rogues, he was grateful of them for the pleasure they gave. Thus his humour was the offspring of large humanity and catholicity of temper without a grain of ill-will. His understanding sympathy with the unpleasant side of life, his genial temperament which made him observe with delight the frailties of mankind--- all these made him a great humorist. His imagination could raise bubbles of fun out of unexpected places. It brightens whatever it touches. This geniality separates Chaucer from such later humorists as Addison and Jane Austin who can be cruel. Cruelty and Chaucer are strangers. Every object was viewed by him with humour.

Chaucers humour is of the finest type. It bears a close similarity to Shakespeares humour. Like Shakespeares humour it is marked with a freshness of outlook, charity, tolerance and forgiveness. There is the tone of sympathy for its victim.

Humour takes many forms in literature. It can be used both in broad and limited sense. In the narrow sense it means a little jolly good natured mirth. In its broader sense it stands for noisy humour (Fun), intellectual humour (wit), gentle humour and bitter humour (satire). Chaucers work reflects all these forms and shapes of humour. Chaucer raises humour at his own cost as at the cost of his pilgrims. He spares not even himself and cracks many a jest at his own expense. He refers to himself as a simple unlettered man.

The satirical tone of Chaucers humour is well presented in the characters of the Monk, the Friar, the Franklyn, the Pardoner and the summoner. There is the presence of ironic humour when the poet gives the description of Madame Eglantynes French. There is ironic love in the ridicule of the Knights achievements and the distant places visited by him in the course of the holy wars as in Alexandria, Prussia and Russia.

There is humour also in the general plan and setting of the Canterbury Tales. The set of pilgrims on the way are like the members of the crew of Comus than the holy pilgrims. They provide a humorous spectacle of humanity on the move as we meet them in their journey. Chaucer shows them calling to each other, criticizing each other and quarreling with each other. They shout and swear, laugh and weep, interrupt the story teller, pass compliments and thus keep alive the spirit of life. In this way a comedy of action goes through the whole poem. 7 THE PROLOGUE TO THE CANTERBURY TALES: CHAUCER AS THE FATHER OF ENGLISH POETRY:

Chaucer is regarded as the father of English poetry and the earliest of the great moderns. In those dark days when the light of modernism had not yet visible on the horizon, Chaucer hoped the modern taste and modern mind, and his poetry introduced qualities far in advance of his times. Though Chaucer could not write a drama or a novel as we know it, but his works contain the seeds of both of the modern drama and the novel. If he had lived a few years more, he would certainly have been our first dramatist and novelist, just as he is the first national poet of England. Chaucer made several contributions to English poetry. National Poet:

Chaucer was the first great national poet of England giving full expression to the new hopes and desires of the people of his times. He voiced through his poetry that national unity which had been brought about by the fusion of the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons. The growing influence of France was checked and for the first time gave expression to the life, ideals, hopes and desires of the people of England, in the natural language. The foundation of Chaucers art lies in English life and English character.

His Observation and Realism:

Modern poetry is characterized by realism. The modern poet is keen observer of the various tendencies of his times which are being put by him in poetry. This modern note of realism had been sounded by Chaucer long ago in the 14th Century. He made a thorough study of his time in its different aspects and gave expression to its hopes and desires in the Canterbury Tales. His observations about his times are true and realistic. He stands in much the same relation to the life of his time as Pope does to the earlier phases of the 18th Century and Tennyson to the Victorian age. He presents a cross-section of English life in the 14th Century in a very successful manner. His description:

Chaucers best description of men, manners and places are of the first rank in their beauty and humour. He has clarity even when he describes the details of spring mornings and flowery gardens. He had a unique power of description in showing merits and demerits of his fellow-men. Thus the prologue to the Canterbury Tales is a picture gallery that contains all classes of people ranging from the Knight to the Miller and the Cook. His Humanity and Tolerance:

His description of his fellow-men shows his wide humanity and toleration. Chaucers wide sympathy and gentle humanity make him lovable among the English poets. He is not opposed. He takes interest in his fellowmen. He becomes one with them and does not fall foul on them like Lang land. Cruelty and Chaucer are far apart, says Aldous Huxley. He is the poet of humanity. Chaucer looks on his characters and smile while Lang land cries aloud in anger. His Native Art: Chaucer is the supreme story-teller. In his stories the narration is straightforward and not tempered. He introduces humour in his narration and makes his stories life-like and living. Characterization:

Chaucer made significant contribution to the art of characterization. Chaucer is the first great painter of character according to Ward. He is first great observer of it among European writers. He presents his characters in a masterly manner. His characters are both individuals and types. His characters like those of Shakespeare are life-like and we cannot forget them. The Knight, the Friar, the Pardoner, the Wife of 8 Bath and Doctor of Physic are living characters and they have an eternal freshness about them.

Chaucers characters, no doubt belong to their age, but they are also of all time. His Humour and Pathos:

Chaucer is in the grand tradition of the great humorist and while his humour may have the peculiar English tinge and flavour yet it has also the essence of all true humour. This places him in the very first line of humorists. Chaucer lays less emphasis on pathos but it is not ignored. In the poetry of Chaucer the sentiment is human and unforced. We have excellent examples of pathos in the Tale of the Prioress and the Legend of Good Women. Chaucers pathos is not sentimental. He shows sympathy for inevitable sorrow. Dramatic Elements in his Poetry:

Chaucer has been called A dramatist in all but the fact. We have all elements of drama in his tales, characterization, dialogue, conflict and setting. He is essentially a dramatist and if his great work does not appear in the conventional dramatic form, it is an accident of the time, and by no means proves a want of power of original conception or of artistic skill in the author. Chaucers method of narration is dramatic. All his characters talk in a dramatic manner. The most sustained dramatic character is that of the Host. The spirit of comedy is clear in his tales. As a Precursor of the Novel:

In Chaucers Troilus and Criseyde and the Canterbury Tales, we have the seeds of the novel which was cultivated by others at a later stage. The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is the prologue to the modern fiction. It is the preface to Don Quixote and the preface to Gill Blas. The tales with their characters and their atmosphere are novels in miniature. Contribution to Language and Versification:

Chaucer made notable contribution to the English language and versification. In 1360, English was split in four dialects. Chaucer popularized, reshaped and reformed the East Midland dialect and gave it the form of the standard tongue. He gave to his native tongue smoothness and flexibility, which it had not known since the Norman times and he gave a high poetical life to this dialect. Appeal to Modern Times:

Chaucer makes the deepest appeal to the reader of the modern times. They recognize in Chaucer not a man of old age but essentially a modern poet living in age with all signs of modernism. The greatest quality which makes Chaucers appeal so widespread in our times is his freshness of outlook, his catholicity of temper and his joyous appreciation of the good things of life. In Chaucers world, there is a little agony and less pain. All is joy and everything has a fresh look. The lively picture of life makes a fascinating appeal to the modern readers, and Chaucer is recognized as the earliest of the moderns. His Defects:

Some critics have found certain flaws in Chaucers poetry. Matthew Arnold found Chaucer deficient in sublime ideals and high seriousness. Another shortcoming of Chaucer is said to be the lack of true lyricism in his poetry. He is charged by Albert for a fondness of long speeches and long explanations when none are necessary. With a few exceptions, his poetry lacks the mysterious significances. Conclusion:

Whatever may be the shortcoming of Chaucer as a poet, it can not be denied that he gave excellent service to English literature in a variety of ways. He was a genius born at a time when the lights were yet hazy. After Chaucer, there was a century of barrenness, and then greatness of the poet came into view in comparison with his followers.

Chaucers Art of Characterization

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The writer is the reflection of his society, whatever he traces is the tongue of contemporary society. His work, The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is a great achievement holding various facets and proving him a poet and a narrator. The historians, without reading his work, can not write history. His art of characterization is very simple and eminent.

He is very fantastic in portraying his characters. He watches his characters minutely. He looks over the behaviours, manners dresses and all habits minutely. His work, prologue to the Canterbury tales is a good work, there in thirty characters are led for pilgrimage representing English society morally and socially. His work is fit for all ages.

All his thirty characters represent different professions as The Knight and the Squire represent warrior class ready to flow blood for country sake. Chaucer depicts that where there is dispute, there is knight to face and reconcile. Further it is added that there was a great keen for being the knight as holding and executing power. He performs a great work. The squire is representing good-humored and joyful disposition with the signs of success. The Man of Law, the Doctor, and the Oxford Clerk belong to the learned line of work.

The Merchant and the Shipman represent the higher commercial community while the Wife of Bath, an expert Cloth maker represents the traders and firm. Agriculture is represented by the Ploughman, the Miller and the Franklin. his way of describing the Monk is very humorous but polite. As he says that the monk has craze for hunting and taming dogs.hublot replica watches His description of all characters shows his mild humour.

These characters represent various types of contemporary society. They possess different qualities and manners and move before us like real human being. His characters are perfectly lifelike. Some of them are so modern that they seem to be living today. The old Knight is an example of the chivalrous character which is found in every generation. The Merchant is very proud over grow of wealth, while the Man of Law like lawyers of all times is enhancing fees and buying land. We recognize in him the typical lawyer of our own day: it is the peculiarity by virtue of it he is called the poet of modern age.

There are characters like the Prioress, the Monk, the Franklin, the Reeve, the Summoner, the Pardoner, and the Wife of Bath whom we do not identify at first. But none of them is really extinct. They have

changed their name and profession but their chief part is an element of humanity. That is why when we accompany the Pilgrims on their way we feel quite at home and have no feeling of being among aliens.

Chaucers art of characterization is superb. He looks at his characters positively and marks out each of the men and women minutely and distinguishably. His way of narration is very excellent pursuing the readers to be their companions. Chaucer conveys a strong sense of distinctiveness and depth of portraiture. He simply evinces their realities without any hard satire or humour.

Chaucers method of portraying characters is a scientific manner by differentiating them by means of their conspicuous characteristics. It was for the first time in European literature that a writer proved himself clearly cognizant of the relation between individuals and ideas. Moreover, Chaucers characters grow and develop in the course of the tale,louis vuitton purses replica like living human beings. They give their opinions on the stories that have been told and these comments reveal their central thoughts, their feelings and the objects of their interests.

Thus Chaucer is the master in the art of characterization.

Prologue to the Canterbury Tales: Chaucers Art of Characterization, Universality and Individuality in de Chaucer flourishes the fantastic colours of his words and paints different characters of his age with minute observation. Indeed, he is a great painter who paints not with colours but with words. Undoubtedly, he has The Seeing Eye, the retentive memory, the judgment to select and the ability to expound. His keen analysis of the minutest detail of his characters, their dresses, looks and manners enable him to present his characters lifelike and not mere bloodless abstractions. His Prologue is a real picture gallery in which thirty portraits are hanging on the wall with all of their details and peculiarities. Rather it is a grand procession with all the life and movement, the colour and sound. Indeed, his characters represent English society, morally and socially, in the real and recognizable types and still more representative of humanity in general. So, the characters in Chaucer's

The Prologue are for all ages and for all lands. Though the plan of the Canterburys Tales has been taken from Giovanni, Italian poet, Chaucers technique of characterization is original and unique. As a result his characters are not only of his age but universal in nature. They are not only types, but individuals. The pilgrims are the epitome of mankind. It is such a veritable picture gallery of the 14th century as the details of their physical appearance, their social status and character are so artistically presented that the whole man or woman come alive before our eyes. Tim Brink wrote:

We receive such an exact idea of the men he (Chaucer) is describing that we can almost see them bodily before our eyes

Chaucer is the first great painter of character in English literature. The thirty portraits traced by Chaucer give us an excellent idea of the society at that time. The different pilgrims represent different professionals. For example, the doctor, the sergeant, the Oxford Clerk and the Friar represent certain traits which characterize their respective professionals. The war-like elements are represented by the Knight, the Squire and the Yeoman. The ploughmen, the Miller, the Reeve and the Franklin typify agriculture. The Sergeant of Law, the Doctor, the Oxford Clerk and the Poet himself represent the liberal professions. The Wife of Bath, the Weaver, and the embody industry and trade; similarly the Merchant and Shipman personate commerce. A Cook and the Host typify provisional trades. The Poor Parson and the Summoner represent the secular clergy while the monastic orders are represented by the Monk, the Prioress and the Pardoner. Thus, the characters in the Canterbury Tales are types as well as individual, as each of them represents a definite profession or class of society and portrays certain individual characteristics with all their idiosyncrasies of dress and speech. A.C. Ward asserts:

Chaucers characters are not mere phantoms of the brain but real human beings and types true to the likeness of whole classes of men and women

Chaucer description of each mans horse, furniture and array, reads like a page from a memoir. He describes them in the most nature genial and humorous manner. Although, Chaucers characters are typical, they also have other features which are not to be found in other members of their profession. Thus, his characters can be distinguished from their colleagues. Because he imparts individual traits to them. These features distinguish them as individuals. For example, the Shipman has a beard; the Wife of Bath is Som-del deef and gat-toothed; the Reeve has long and lean legs, the Miller has a wart surmounted by a tuft of hair on his nose, the Summoners face is full of pimples and Squire is as fresshe as is the monthe of May. Chaucers lawyer seems typical of our own day when he says:

Nowhere so bisy a man as he ther was/ And yet he seemed bisier than he was

In fact, there is a different method of almost every pilgrim. He varies his presentation from the full length portrait to the thumb-nail sketch, but even in the sketches, Chaucer conveys a strong sense of individuality and depth. Chaucer does not take a dramatic approach, he uses descriptive and narrative approach which suits the theme of The Canterbury Tales. Unlike Wycliffe and Langland, He has broad humanity and sympathy for all the characters, the just and the unjust. We feel a sense of comradeship with Chaucer. They are shown to possess those traits and humors and habits that characterize the men and women of all ages in the world. Their traits are universal, though some of them have changed their positions yet their nature is the same. Chaucer uses the technique of contrast in drawing the portraits of the pilgrims. The good and the bad rub shoulders together. We have the paragon of virtue in the Parson and the Ploughman and monsters of vice in the Reeve, the Miller and the Summoner. Like Shakespeare, Chaucers characters are three-dimensional i.e., having length, breadth and depth. For example, the Wife of Bath and the Monk are complex figures. Chaucer has been called an outstanding representative poet of his age because of the typical element in his characterization. So, Dryden says:

All his pilgrims are severally distinguished from each other, and not only in their inclinations but also in their physiognomies and persons