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Home » » Chaucer as a medieval poet
With Chaucer is perceived the beginning of an era- a new epoch - in the history of English Literature . Hector is , indeed , the greatest name among the English men of letters before Shakespeare . But this is not all , for he had the credit to introduce the modern note into English literature.

But this is not all . Chaucer is a medieval poet , not simply a modern one , and he represents fully the medieval spirit that was dominant in the literature of his time . He belonged to the medieval world , in action and spirit , and knew medieval life in its various aspects . His multiplicity of occupation enabled him to grasp the numerous experiences , connected with medieval life and activities . His literary art is found to transmit much his experience and knowledge of medieval life and literature. 

Contemporaries of Chaucer

One of the primary notes of medieval literature is found in its story-telling aspect . Under the French influence and the Italian , the medieval English poets displayed more or less too much proneness to story-telling . This is found perfectly expressed in Chaucer who has remained one of the finest story -tellers in verse in English literature . His numberous works , inspired under different influences , bear out his power as a story-teller . The Knightes Tale and Troilus and Criseyde , his notable works in the Italian period , are rich in the gifts of story - telling . Drawn from the sources of Boccaccio , these texts present the stories of a chivalrous and adventurous life , and the tenderness of warm and devoted love . Here they seem to bear the tradition of medieval romances , although they are made of a better literary stuff . Chaucer is found , no doubt indebted to Boccaccio  for the plots of his poems , yet his originality is well demonstrated all through , and the mere adventurous events of Boccaccio tales are found transformed into the highly impulsive love - poems by Chaucer's sheer poetic genius . In The Legende of Good Women , Chaucer's great gift of story telling also remarkably comes out . But the crowning piece of Chaucer’s literary genius is The canterbury Tales , in which the tales told are no less admirable and effective . These tales are the expressions of Chaucer's genius and profile in story-telling . This is definitely a medieval strand in literature , much perfected and embellished on Chaucer.

The second aspect, so remarkable noted in medieval literature, is the trend to symbolism and allegory. In Chaucer is found the triumph of the English allegorical and symbolic poetry of the middle ages.Under the French influence, He wrote some of his earlier works, bearing allegorical notes, Among these allegorical works- The Boke of Blanche the Duchess -may be mentioned first.It was written to commemorate the death of Blanche of Lancaster ,the first wife of Chaucer's patron John of Gaunt. Fancy and reality, artificiality and allegory, are here finely combined. The poem is an allegory, intended for the price of beauty ,but its allegory is well balanced with realism, and the work nowhere appears dull or crude. The Duchess appears real mourning for her death remains equally so.The parlement of Foules and The Hons of Fame are also two allegorical works of Chaucer and reveal ,too,his power to blend realism with allegory and exhibit his fine sense of wit and humour. The Legende of Good Women is not an allegorical work ,but its prologue is allegorical. Different tales in The Canterbury Tales bear here and there some element of allegory .What is. however,remarkable in Chaucer is his power to combine allegory and lyricism, thought and imagination. The allegorical dominance in medieval literature is marked in chaucer.But his allegories have much broader canvas and a greater impact. These are not merely moral, But social, too.

The third medieval feature,in Chaucer's writing is the presence of the element of wit and humour. Anglo -Saxon poetry is distinctly grave and sombre , and lacks the fineness of wit and humour .This may, however,be found well counter-balanced in Chaucer's works that light up the predominance of wit and humour in the English literature of the middle age .Chaucer's amplitude  of wit and humour is perceived everywhere in his great works. His sense of the fun of life and humour is always found invigorating and pleasing, and here Chaucer is found to have moved much more forward from his contemporaries of chaucer. In his great works like  the hous of Fame ,The parlement of Foules and The Canterbury Tales, humour is present as an indispensable and diverting element and wit, displayed with a vigorous force. Of course, Chaucer's humour is found invigorated with a truly comic spirit,  and his great works are excellent social comedies.

Lastly, Chaucer's  versification is also commendable and illustrative of his medievalism .His mastery is manifested in his technical pattern, and here he also represent his age. The octosyllabic lines,Which are found the pattern of versification of Middle ages,have got a forceful handling and undergone  healthy renovations in Chaucer's hand. The heroic verse, Which is the metre of the great poetry of England, owes its origin to Chaucer's genius .The use of the ten -syllable  line regularly in narrative verses is definitely a mark of Chaucer's technical originality.

Chaucer. no doubt ,belonged to the medieval world,but he is the earliest of his great moderns,  and in comparison with the literature of his own time and that which succeeded him,the advance made by him his own time and that which succeeded him , The advance made by him stupendous making allowances for his old fashioned language , Dryden judges and praises Chaucer (in his Preface to the Fables) as a modern writer, and  no modern author has received higher compliments from him."The Chaucerian literary world is not antique but modern, with an absolutely modern environment,  and his genius puts fresh and formative spirits into old things and turns gross into gold", Albert is quiet right in his observance, "Chaucer is , indeed, a genius ; he stands along , and for nearly two hundred years none dare claim equality with him."


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