Chaucer The Father Of English Poetry English Literature Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: English Literature|
|✅ Wordcount: 1072 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
Chaucer is generally considered as the ‘father of English poetry’; looking specifically at ‘The Canterbury Tales’ we can see that Chaucer attempted to portray a depiction of society as he knew it. It is also evident that he attempted to provide his own commentary on his society. Chaucer distances himself from the comments made in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ as he tells his audience “Blameth nat me” (Chaucer, 2006, line 73) if they are to take offense from what the Miller says as it is not Chaucer, himself, saying it, he simply has too repeat what was said. This is a very clever technique that Chaucer uses so that he can’t be faced with controversy or come under attack from any one as he has only repeated this tale.
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Chaucer would have had to ensure that his work did not offend those in the church, seeing as the church was the only place where literature was preserved. However Chaucer still attacks society, and the greed of the church amongst other social issues, by not personally saying it, he skilfully distances himself from the issues he highlights in this tales. Chaucer also manages to tactfully deal with these issues, resulting in highly enjoyable tale, which offers a social commentary on a society faced with corruption and hypocrisy.
‘The Canterbury Tales’ was written in a time where an “audible, social reading of literature” (Ford, 1976, p86) was preferred, this is possibly because of the influence that the church had on Medieval Literature. One of the main reasons for this may be due to the church, as they supplied the only form of education, everyone at church would have been listened to preachers, and as “preaching itself had throughout the Middle Ages a great influence on other literature of all sorts” (Ford, 1976, p85) it is not unreasonable to assume that this is why oral forms of literature were preferred in the medieval period. ‘The Canterbury Tales’ were written as thought hey were being spoken aloud, so they fit in well with this medieval trend. The language and diction used in both ‘The Millers Tale’ and ‘The Wife of Bath’ conforms to a “plain, low style” (King, 2000, p47). Chaucer’s “dominant sentence structure is paratactic” (King, 2000, p47); with a rhyme scheme consisting “of couplets of iambic pentameters” (King, 2000, p47). The purpose of Chaucer’s use of language, allows both tales to be easily read aloud for a group of people, rather than just read alone. Aware of his language choices, Chaucer will have also been attempting to make the background story to ‘The Canterbury Tales’ seem authentic. The narrator is telling these stories on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, so as we read the tales to ourselves we can get a sense of the pilgrimage, and the way these tales would have been told.
Chaucer uses ‘The Canterbury Tales’ as a social commentary. Through the general prologue we can see “how he feels about whole sections of society by making individuals represent whole groups of medieval life” (Bunting, 2003, p6). These representations slowly begin to build up an entire view of Chaucer’s life in the medieval period. ‘The Canterbury Tales’ is famous for upsetting the social hierarchy. Despite the conventions, after the Knights tale is told at the very beginning the rest of the tales are not told in order of those with the higher social standing, as would be conventionally expected. Certain characters interrupt, pushing their tales over others, making ‘The Canterbury Tale’ humorous as it does not follow the conventional order as “som bettre man shal telle us first another” (Chaucer, 2006, Line 21).
Chaucer also satirises the medieval idea of romance, through the tales, he satirises courtly love, and how it is portrayed as being the ideal way to create a romance. The Miller’s Tale, in particular, satirises this concept as it is a “parody romance” (King, 2000, p73). This medieval concept is often found ridiculed in these tales. In the Wife of Bath she admits “that I have wedded five!” (Chaucer, 1995, line 44), if this had been a courtly love, surely it would have lasted and the Wife of Bath would not have been able to marry again, out of love for her previous husband. Absolon in the Miller’s Tale attempts to woo Alison using techniques expected of a courtly lover, however he fails to impress Alison and his efforts go unrecognised. Chaucer uses Absolon to demonstrate just how ridiculous the efforts of the courtly lover can be. Chaucer is “viewed as inheritor of a great tradition as well as the inventor of a new one” (Saunders, 2001, p5) he stuck to particular conventions of the medieval period, and is work is characteristically medieval, however as he does question some of the medieval literary ideas, and many issues in society he can be enjoyed by a contemporary audience who can read the subtleties of his satirical prose narrative, without him alienating either his own audience or a more contemporary one.
The main social issue that Chaucer is seen to satirise in both these tales is the idea that women are repressed. Chaucer seemed
“able to perceive the genius and subtlety of the female mind in making the best of their situation in life, while still allowing the men to think they were in control” (Bunting, 2003, p5).
This is perhaps best envisioned in The Wife of Bath’s Prologue. She mentions her having had “wedded five!” (Chaucer, 1995, line 44). However she is able to defend this position that she is in as God says “that to be wedded is no sinne” (Chaucer, 1995, line 51), she also asks when God “commanded he virgintee?” (Chaucer, 1995, line 62). She speaks out against the church and what they are saying in the medieval period, where women were given two stereotypes, either compared to the treacherous Eve, or had to live up to the standards of the Virgin Mary with her being both a virgin and a mother this was an impossible role model for women to achieve. The Wife of Bath is unashamedly a larger than life character designed to squash the constraints that medieval Christianity have placed upon women.
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