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Home » , » Some Important Short Notes On The Age Of Chaucer or, Chaucer's Period ( 1340-1400)

The age of chaucer consists mainly of The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, John Wyclif , Piers Plowman, Fable, John Gower, William Langland important short notes etc. Here, these things are discussed in small areas.

The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales is the greatest and most popular work of Geoffrey Chaucer. It marks the dawn of a new era. It is the merit of his complete wisdom. Chaucer has planned to write it probably in 1387 and finished it in 1388. The general plan of his work is borrowed from Boccaccio's "Decameron". But it has been much improved in the process of borrowing. The poem has almost seventeen thousand lines. It contains thirty two characters including Chaucer and the owner of Tabbard Inn, Harry Baily.

The Canterbury Tales is not only his masterpiece among his own works but also the high point of all English medieval literature. Its "Prologue" contains only 858 lines. It is a sort of picture gallery. Chaucer has created a host of vital and individualized characters. He is the first English poet to bring the atmosphere of romantic interest about the men and women. He has painted the character of Knight to Miller and from aristocratic Prioress to bourgeois Wife of Bath. In this way, the fact of their being on a pilgrimage affords opportunity for incident on the way and the introduction of fresh characters. The poet has created variety, interest and realism in The Canterbury Tales. He cannot finish it. The work is incomplete. In this respect, Edward Albert rightly remarks, "Even in its incomplete state, the work is a small literature in itself, an almost unmeasured abundance and variety of humour and pathos, of narrative and description and of dialogue and digression". In fact, The Canterbury Tales is a unique achievement of Chaucer. It has a great historical importance. His powers are at their highest degree in this work. Here we also get a rare picture of contemporary England. So Chaucer is regarded as the father of English poetry.

Troilus and Criseyde

Troilus and Criseyde is probably the finest complete work of Geoffrey Chaucer. It is his greatest artistic achievement. It has been written most probably between 1380 and 1383. Undoubtedly, it is Chaucer's largest complete poem. Because the poem contains more than eight thousand lines. It is divided unequally into five books. So it is a long poem partly adapted and partly translated from Boccaccio's II Filostrato. In his Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer is half-Italian and half- English. This great poem is written in the stanzas of rime royal. Rime royal is a stanza of seven iambic pentameter lines rhyming ab ab bcc.Troilus and Criseyde narrates the tragic life story of Troilus, a young Trojan Knight and a young beautiful widow, Criseyde. Troilus is the son to Priam and the brother to Hector and Paris. On the other hand, Criseyde is the daughter to Calchas. In this poem, we find that Troilus is able to win the heart of Criseyde with the help of Pandarus who is his friend and Criseyde's uncle. For three years, they live the life of mutual love. But Criseyde has to desert her lover. She does not keep her promise of undying love and fidelity. When Troilus understands that Criseyde has been the bed-partner of Diomede, he becomes desperate. He is eventually slain by Achilles. Troilus and Criseyde shows a notable advance in Chaucer's narrative power and characterization. The complex characters of Criseyde and Pandarus reveal a new subtlety of psychological development. They indicate the poet's growing insight into human motives. It proves that Chaucer desires to reflect life. His narrative power is equally developed. He seems to have used here his varied powers together in an absolute harmony. His keenness as a storyteller in verse is brilliantly shown in Troilus and Criseyde.

John Wyclif

John Wyclif is the most original and powerful in English prose of the Age of Chaucer. He was born in 1320 and died in 1384. He was a student and afterwards a professor of Oxford. He was also the Chaplain to King Edward-III. He is called the First Protestant and the father of the English Reformation. He may be called with equal justice the father of English Prose.Wyclif was well versed in theology and law. He was drawn into the struggle that broke out in 1365 between the king and the Pope. He was strong in his denunciation of the corruptions of the church. His followers were known as Lollards. They went about the country and were preaching his ideals. Wyclif attacked violently not only the abuses of the church but also the very dogma of the church.Wyclif has written a large number of tracks and pamphlets in English. He is the first translator of the holy Bible into the English language. His translation is faulty and abounds too much in Latin construction. His English is not polished but vigorous and pointed having a homely simplicity. He has also translated "The Gospel" and much more of "The New Testament". These translations have been made from the Latin Vulgate and not from the original Greek or Hebrew. So, Wyclif is much praised as the neat and clean prose writer.

Piers Plowman

" Piers Plowman" is one of the significant works in the Middle English Period before Geoffrey Chaucer. It is the greatest allegorical and alliterative poem of social protest. The poem is written by William Langland in three texts appeared in 1362,1377 and 1400.The full name of the poem is "The Vision of William, Concerning Piers, the Plowman". Here " Piers" means Peter and "Plowman" stands for farmer. The poem is original and remarkable. It gives remarkably vivid account of the suffering of the peasants. We find that literature had been busy centuries after centuries in pleasing the upper classes. But Langland turns to the common man and writes of his suffering. In this respect, an eminent critic remarks, "Here at last was a great poem which appealed directly to the common people and its success was enormous".In the poem, " Piers Plowman ", we find a hatred of the corrupt clergy of the times. The criticism is fiery and satiric. Here Langland has made a peasant his hero and represents him as the saviour of mankind. The poem is frankly moral and didactic. In this respect, it excels other poems of the period. However, it is entirely formless. There is no characterization worth the name . It is written in dead West Midland dialect. In some cases, Langland seems to be a hopeless failure.

Fable Or, Beast-fable

Fable is usually a very short and fairly simple story designed to illustrate a moral lesson. It is an allegorical story of animal characters that exhibit human frailties. The fables attributed to the Greek slave Aesop are the most familiar. They are translated and modified by other famous writers like Plautus, Marie de France and Jean de La Fontaine La Fontaine's " Fables" has been faithfully and excellently translated into English by Marianne Moore. The "Just So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling is a  collection of fables. George Orwell's satire, Animal Farn has also been called a fable because of its animal characters."The Nun's Priest's Tale" is a splendid example of Geoffrey Chaucer's skill to reshape and refurnish the familiar medieval beast fable. Here we find the story of a Fox, a Cock and a Hen as a wholly new and unique work of art. Chaucer has added a new dimension in the story by employing human names and qualities to the character. In fact, the cock is for  Chanticleer and the Hen for Madame Pertelote. Chaucer's superb handling of the beast fable has given the poem a deeper significance offering a moral tone to human beings.

John Gower

John Gower is a representative poet of his age like Geoffrey Chaucer. He is the last in date among the Anglo-Normans. He was born in 1325 and died in 1408.Gower begins to write Latin and French verses. Afterwards, he switches on to English, "King's English" probably under the influence of Chaucer. He has written following three poems--1.   Speculum Meditantis (in French), 2.   Vox Clamantis (in Latin) and3.   Confessio Amantis (in English).Confessio Amantis is an immense compilation of stories extending to forty thousand octo-syllabic lines. It is said to have been written at the bidding of King Richard. The frame of the poem is allegorical. Here the poet has introduced the Saven Deadly Sins illustrated by many episodes and stories The connection of these stories with morality on love is often absurd.As a story teller, Gower is abundant and clear. Many of his stories are well told in plain style. But many others are not worth telling. His style is generally diffused. Sometimes it is brisk and quite competent. The metre is the octo-syllabi. Couplet, smooth, fluent and varied. He is more of a moralist than a poet. Chaucer called him "Moral Gower". Gower is a fierce satirist who upbraids and condemns everything without observation. Yet he is regarded as " a sort of popular encyclopedia of mediaeval lore".

William Langland

We are able to know very little of William Langland. He was born probably in 1332 near Malvern in Worcestershire. After 1399, he disappeared utterly. So the date of his death is unknown. Yet some historians want to say that Langland might die in 1400. However, Langland is one of the best known poets in the time of Chaucer. He is famous for great poetical work, "The Vision of Piers, the Plowman.""The Vision of Piers, the Plowman" is the greatest allegory by Langland. Here "Piers" means Peter and "Plowman" stands for farmer. The poem was written in 1362. It gives remarkably vivid account of the suffering of peasants. It is original and remarkable. The literature of the century was busy in pleasing the upper classes. But Langland turns to the common man and writes of his suffering . His poem appeals directly to the common people and is very successful. It is also a great moral allegory and a hatred of the corrupt clergy of the time. In characterization, Langland is a hopeless failure. He has used the dead West Midland dialect in writing his poem.
Short Notes On The Age Of Chaucer


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