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Discuss Chaucer's use of irony in the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales.

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Introduction

Discuss Chaucer's use of irony in the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer uses three main comical techniques to portray those characters that he wishes to satirise. Few of the pilgrims are presented entirely by listing visual details, as in the case of the Yeoman; the main method, especially in satirical portraits, is to describe with enthusiasm and admiration all those features of which the victim himself is particularly proud. This task is made easier by the use of two different characterisations of 'Chaucer' - Chaucer the poet and Chaucer the pilgrim. While Chaucer himself may not respect or admire many of the characters' traits, Chaucer the pilgrim regularly praises his fellow travellers on traits which do not deserve to be praised and therefore the foolish pilgrims give themselves away. An example of this method is during the portrait of the Monk, whose masculinity, fine horses, supple boots and diet are remarked on with approval by Chaucer. Again in the description of the Prioress this method is evident: "Ful semely hir wimpel pinched was;" And "Ful fetis was ...read more.

Middle

For example in the portrait of the Friar, there are various examples of vices being praised: "In alle the ordres foure is noon that can So muche of daliaunce and fair langage." And "He was an esy man to yeve penaunce Ther as he wiste to han a good pitaunce;" In the above quotes the Friar is first praised as being the most skilful seducer in all the four supposedly celibate orders, and then congratulated for giving an easy penance in return for a good bribe. Lines 225-30 show the second method of echoing the Friar's transparent excuses and again in lines 243-8: "For unto swich a worthy man as he Accorded nat, as by his facultee, To have wit seke lazars aqueyntaunce. It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce For to delen with no swich poraille, But al with riche and sellers of vitaille." In the portrait of the Summoner, Chaucer again uses irony, although the humour is at some stages bordering on sarcasm. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Monk who was supposed to stay within his order was a man who enjoyed riding and recreation and wore fine clothes. Chaucer described him as 'a manly man fit to be an abbot.' This is ironic because monks and abbots weren't supposed to be manly and Chaucer is mocking the monk because he thinks the monk would make an awful Abbot. The Friar is a victim of Chaucer's mocking irony because the things the Friar thinks are good about himself are the things Chaucer tells the reader. Chaucer however doesn't believe them. Chaucer uses irony to keep the readers interest. The characters are not fitting to the medieval expectations of their role. Chaucer is ironic to be controversial because the medieval society is shocked at the state of the supposedly important people's attitudes. Chaucer's irony brings the General Prologue to life as it makes a mockery and is humorous about the medieval way of life and talks about how members of medieval society should not behave. ?? ?? ?? ?? Felicity Giles ...read more.

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