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Home » » Make a Critical Analysis Of Prologue To The Canterbury Tales And Find Out The Author's Artistry

The Canterbury Tales , though an unfinished work , is definitely the best specimen of Chaucerian literature and remains unsurpassable in the English literary works before Spenser . What , however , constitutes the crowning interest in this unfinished work is the finished and most artistic execution of the Prologue to the Tales .

Prologue implies a kind of introduction and in his sense the prologue to the Canterbury Tales may be taken as Chaucers introduction to his whole literary scheme in the work . He , no doubt , intended to make the Prologue a befitting introduction to his entertaining tales about which he had perhaps not drawn any definite plan . His original plan to have two stories , told by each pilgrim enroute to Canterbury and two more in course of the return journey , is given out here .
it's that you each , to shorten the long journey , Shall tell two tales enroute to Canterbury ,And coming homeward, tell another two, Stories of things that happened long ago.(From the verse translation in modern English by David Wright)

Of course , that was , perhaps only schemed ,  but not put into any definite literary action . Nervertheless , the Prologue was employed by him , with an eye to the whole scheme as a just introduction to his numberous tales , characteristic of the age .But what Chaucer has achieved in the Prologue is something more than a mere introduction . The Prologue to Canterbury Tales to Canterbury and planning to make their journey diverting and free from monotony by telling tales to one another .The most important thing that Chaucer is found to have accompanied in his introductory purpose is to bring the picture of the entire English society of his time , and this is truly a unique attainment . Within the brief compass of some eight hundred and sixty lines , the poet has presented the whole English community of the fourteenth century with different classes and ranks and professions , except the nobles , the bishops and the serfs . This is really a commendable representation in a precise and entertaining manner . Indeed , Chaucer's Prologue passes from a mere introductory verse to a poetical social chronicle of a high order.

In Chaucer's poetical social chronicle character appears particularly significant and entertaining.  He does merely mention some professional names Knight,  Squire, Monk,  Friar , Summoner, Pardoner, Parson,  Yeoman , Physicians,  and so on . He also draws an engaging poetical portrait for his pilgrims , ready to make a pilgrimage to Canterbury in observation of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket.  His portraits reveal his wonderful artistry. He seems here really an artist without a peer.

Thus Chaucer present the Knight first.  He is a 'worthy man', who participated in different battles and sieges.  But this is not all.  Chaucer  also goes to describe his dress and his horse .  The picture of the knight is fully true to what a knight was in the feudal world . Chaucer's description genius is, perhaps,  more penetrative in his representation of the Prioress whom he makes an object of irony.  Hee showy and demonstrative nature is marked in the very description of her conduct at the dinner time-
"At mete wely -taught was she with -alle, Shr bet no morsel from her lippes falle""Good table manners she had learnt as well:She never let a crumb from her mouth fall"-(Modern translation) 
Chaucer's Monk, however,  deserve  a greater attention and reveals the poet's power to describe and satirize mildly at the same time.  The boisterous habit of the Monk and his love for the material pleasures of life are subtly indicated . The Monk is fatty and well dressed and is fond of rich dishes.  Chaucer's irony is subtle but sharp in regard to the Monk whose description is really illustrative of the poet's art-
' A fat swan loved the best of any roost'
The next member of the ecclesiastical order is the Friar,  whom Chaucer also describe with an equal skill.  He is gay and pompous and rather wanton in his habit . He is also an expert in songs and his beggarly habit is well represented in the description -
' He was the beste beggere in hous.'
By the  side of the greedy. corrupt persons of the Catholic Church,  Chaucer also represent some honest churchmen.  In this respect , the poor Parson may be particularly mentioned . In fact in his description of the parson , the poet contrasts the piety and industry of the secular clergy with the wickedness and laziness of the religious orders or monks . The Parson is a learned man who is ready to serve others,  without extracting money from them . He is diligent and patient to attend to men in adversity.  He is not a mercenary,  but a man of virtue and holiness , and bears no spite against the sinners . In fact , he follows the very precept of Christianity,  and is a true Christian :
"But Christes loore, and his Apostles twelve He taughte,  and first folwed it hymselve."
Chaucer's art of description is of a high order.  His pilgrims are the specific instance of his grand techniques as a master portrait painter . What is more, Chaucer makes his figures alive by informing them with his gift of wit and humour . In short , in Chaucer's descriptions, as already indicated,  pilgrims are no.more the mere representation in writing , but the living portraits of the men and women of this time,  with their queerness,  mannerism and practices.  His pilgrims,  in fact, are alive,  and in no way less dramatic figures.

There is another important aspect of this Chaucerian Prologue . Chaucer remains one of the outstanding humorists in English literature , and the Prologue bears out his genius as a comical author. The Canterbury Tales is deemed as a great comedy of the human society and this is particularly evident in Chaucer's representation of different characters in the Prologue and his full exploitation of their nature and practices to create an appropriate comic spirit all  over the poem.  In fact,  the Prologue reaches the height of a grand social comedy in poetry . This comic effect is finely achieved by his wonderful sense of wit and humour and power to intermingle irony with it. Chaucer's comic artistry , as exhibited here , has remained a source of inspiration for all aspirants for fame in comic literature .

Finally,  there is Chaucer's wonderful versification,  his use of octo-syllabic lines with a novelty and a vigout. Indeed,  the father of english poetry , as he is called , is in his full glory here in his technical command over versification which is almost flawless.


Unknown said...

Very well-organized!

Anonymous said...

Good work and well organized

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