• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Chaucer's Irony - The Canterbury Tales

Extracts from this document...


Chaucer's Irony Irony is a vitally important part of The Canterbury Tales, and Chaucer's ingenious use of this literary device does a lot to provide this book with the classic status it enjoys even today. Chaucer has mastered the techniques required to skilfully put his points across and subtle irony and satire is particularly effective in making a point. The Canterbury Tales are well-known as an attack on the Church and its rôle in fourteenth century society. With the ambiguity introduced by the naïve and ignorant "Chaucer the pilgrim", the writer is able to make ironic attacks on characters and what they represent from a whole new angle. The differences in opinion of Chaucer the pilgrim and Chaucer the writer are much more than nuances - the two personas are very often diametrically opposed so as to cause effectual irony. In the Friar's portrait, he is delineated and depicted by riddles of contradictory qualities. Chaucer expertly uses ironic naiveté to highlight the Friar's lack of moral guilt. When the reader is told that the Friar, "knew the taverns wel in every toun" (l. 240), we can take it to mean that he spends very much time drinking, flirting and socialising in pubs. ...read more.


Chaucer cunningly uses this technique throughout The General Prologue: making the pilgrim miss seemingly obvious character flaws and instead ironically reporting an opposite, contrasting view thereby illustrating to the reader just how unethical his fellow pilgrim is. When a portrait is laden with irony such as this, it reinforces the immorality of the Friar when even the ignorant pilgrim can see that he is a "wantowne" (l. 208) person without a modicum of conscience. Shortly after the Friar, Chaucer makes a curt change in direction to cover the Clerk. Again, irony plays an important part in his portrait and is vital for us to understand what sort of person Chaucer the writer wants to portray. However, the irony used to describe this Oxford scholar is very different to that used to portray the Friar and many of the other pilgrims. This time, Chaucer is not drawn in by the intricate webs of deceit and lies spun by the other pilgrims, but instead makes his own erroneous judgements on the Clerk's personality. Chaucer the pilgrim depreciates him for the over-thin appearance of him and his horse. He expresses disdain at the Clerk's poor-quality worn apparel intending to insult him as though it makes him a lesser person when, in fact, this merely shows that the Clerk is not a hedonistic materialist and devotes his limited resources to more useful pursuits such as enhancing his knowledge. ...read more.


162), which is particularly inappropriate for a humble, selfless nun. The Prioress is described as "charitable and so pitous" because "she wolde weep, if that she saw a mous/Kaught in a trappe" (ll. 144-5). However, her charity is rather misplaced as noting is mentioned about her work as nun for the poor. She even displays her own ostentatious wealth by flaunting her showy jewels - she wears "a brooch of gold ful sheene" (l. 160). Of course, Chaucer the pilgrim simply sees this as being elegant and sophisticated. Throughout The General Prologue we see how Chaucer the pilgrim has been swayed and convinced by what the other pilgrims tell him. So much so that he reports qualities that are often the opposite of the true personalities of the characters he is describing. This ambiguity reveals a very clever sort of irony on behalf of the writer - while Chaucer the pilgrim is easily drawn in by their deliberate misrepresentations, it is up to the readers to see how wrong he is and draw their own, more accurate, conclusions. It shows many of the pilgrims to be very different people than those symbolised by the ideal qualities they want others to see. This astute technique is particularly effective in pointing out the hypocrisy and corruption in the Christian Church during Chaucer's time. Jonathan Hobbs - 1 - 28/04/2007 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Geoffrey Chaucer section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. English society of Chaucer's time

    Amid the clamor of different characters and different points of view, he's reminding us that earthly truth has as many aspects as there are pilgrims, and that the pilgrims are trying to find a single truth that is impossible for mortals to find.

  2. How does Chaucer reveal his attitude towards the Church through his portrayal of the ...

    "He hadde maad his owene cost". The Friar is shown as being sexually promiscuous whereas the reader is given the impression that the Prioress yearns for a more traditional, heroines love. When telling the tales of his ecclesiasticals Chaucer speaks of them at times with mockery and irony.

  1. In Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the element of irony is frequently used in order ...

    Thus, the king symbolizes the idealness that the knight is lacking. The queen's proposal is clearly also ironic due to the fact that the knight must take into consideration of the feelings of women, something he had previously ignored.

  2. With reference to lines 91-112 and 163-290, how are the rivals Nicholas and Absalon ...

    self-love leads to a belief within himself that he has a chance. His pathetic endeavours are mocked by the Miller through false admiration and by patronising him, 'A mirie child he was, So God me save.' Chaucer humorously combines the parody with the Knights Tale with the Miller's parody and mockery of the theme of courtly love and satire.

  1. Geoffrey Chaucer provides humor in many of the tales from Canterbury Tales.

    Absalom then goes back into the town and gets a hot colter and returns to the house, and again he demands a kiss from Alison. This time, Nicholas decides to play the joke. "Nicholas quickly raised the window and thrust his ass far out...Nicholas let fly a fart with a

  2. Chaucer's Models of Authorship and his Anxiety of Influence in the Prologue to the ...

    (Hoccleve, 2077-2079) It is possible that Chaucer projected that his name would be draped with the mantle of a title so weighted with reverence and respect as the father and creator of a literary tradition and it is evident a certain anxiety about his role as the author is manifested in the prologue to Legend.

  1. Select two or three portraits from the General Prologue and discuss Chaucer's use of ...

    not solely interested in being the bride of Christ and therefore does not follow Benedict's Rule exactly. Even less to her credit is that we see she has taken the opportunity to use religion to show off her airs and graces.

  2. Geoffrey Chaucer. Through the double narration it can be seen that the narrator ...

    It is known that Chaucer's (the author) occupation was a government functionary*. Logically we can assume the pilgrim to be a government official also. In government, there were two main positions for the literate: a legal writer or an entertainer.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work