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In Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the element of irony is frequently used in order to enhance the moral principles of the tales and to mock the flaws in society.

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Introduction

In Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the element of irony is frequently used in order to enhance the moral principles of the tales and to mock the flaws in society. This usage of irony is noticeably seen in the Wife of Bath's tale of a knight whose penalty for raping a maiden is to discover what women truly desire above all. Irony is present in the interceding of the queen, the offers of the old hag, and the transformation of the hag into a beautiful young woman. First and foremost, the knight comes upon an unaware maiden and takes advantage of her resulting in the serious punishment of beheading. Immediately the reader shall recognize and think it strange that the knight is indeed the traditional hero of the story although he happens to be a rapist. ...read more.

Middle

Thus, the knight sets out on his quest, and along the way he encounters an ugly old woman with an offer to save his life if he pledges himself to her in return. Once again, the same twist is displayed - a female presents the knight with an opportunity to live. Then he returns to court and is able to answer this to the queen, "Women desire to have dominion over their husbands, and their lovers too; they want to have mastery over them. That's what you most desire" (Chaucer 245). Now it is finally clear, and ironic, that the knight took what women want the most away from the maiden that he had raped, and hence was the reason for the queen to offer such a quest. ...read more.

Conclusion

However it is unclear whether or not the knight only provides her with the response that she was looking for and not have truly learnt a lesson. If not, then irony once again arises in the fact that the old woman gives in return a shallow change of mind a skin deep change of appearance. If skillfully used, irony can be most effective in order to deliver a story's message to the reader. This makes it a key element in satire present in other works within Canterbury Tales such as the Summoner's Tale in order to detail the corruption of the church and the Pardoner's Tale which enhances men's downfall due to greed. Because without irony, it is much more difficult to get the point across while being entertainingly humorous to the audience at the same time. ...read more.

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