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Merchant; Franklin; Sergeant of the Law. For each of these characters analyse how Chaucer presents them as representatives of the new bourgeoisie. To what extent are they presented simply as representatives of their class, rather than individual?

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Merchant; Franklin; Sergeant of the Law. For each of these characters analyse how Chaucer presents them as representatives of the new bourgeoisie. To what extent are they presented simply as representatives of their class, rather than individual? The Merchant is the first representative of the third estate - those who worked. His description is opened with four lines on his appearance; it is doubtful that attributes such as "a forked beard" were particularly considered traits of the new middle class, which implies the Merchant exists as an individual. The opposing argument, however, starts in the same place; his "faire and fetisly" buckled boots are a sign of the relative prosperity which the new class enjoyed, whilst his most distinguishing aesthetic feature could be said to be the "Flaudnryssh bever hat" - a direct product of his occupation, and his business links with Holland. This would indicate that he is less of a person (with a personality) and more of a representative of his class. Concentrating now on his speech, of which the next four lines are concerned, everything he discusses is to do with his work. This can be interpreted in one of at least two ways; either that he is a particularly work-obsessed individual, or that in creating an archetype, there is nothing else to this character for him to discuss; he is two dimensional. ...read more.


According to the Alexanders, Sergeants of Law were criticised "for their purchase of lands previously given by the king for services rendered". This is an important point; for if the text is read taking that for granted, then Chaucer's tone takes on a far more satirical and mocking tone - and nothing is easier to mock than a stereotype. "So greet a purchasour was nowher noon" says Chaucer of the Sergeant - if taken at face value, a positive remark on the success of the lawyer in his profession, but if taken in the context provided by the Alexanders, then it acts as an indictment of the lawyer's practice - and as such of all lawyer's practice. A far stronger argument can be made for the Sergeant of Law having a character of his own than can for the Merchant - for example, this lawyer knows "every statut...pleyn by rote" (knows every statute by heart). This is, if taken literally, not only quite an achievement for anyone, but also quite a distinctive feature of a person. There are precise dates of the legal battles he knows of - all since William the Conqueror. There is, of course, a flip side to this. If we take it not literally, but as a prime example of Chaucerian hyperbole, then this quite distinctive lawyer, with particular traits, becomes every lawyer - especially from the point of view of the reader, to whom it probably seems as if every lawyer knows everything about everything. ...read more.


Of the Franklin's 29 lines, only two are expended on his work, whilst a whopping twenty are used to portray his home life. In order to add yet more depth to him, the thirteen of these lines are concerning food - this gives him a sort of motif, a humorous element that we can relate to. Whereas it could simply state that he was rich, and give examples, Chaucer's description tells us how his money is spent, how he is "Epicurus' owene sone", he loves pleasure and delights in being a host. I believe this evidence is by far enough for us to see the Franklin as a true character as opposed to a stereotype of his class. Apart from anything else, far too much time is spent describing his particular personality traits, whilst very little time is spent on his career. The question is difficult to answer with any certitude, as a case can be made for every character in the general prologue being a stereotype; a representative of his or her own class. Each character has their own traits; the evidence presented here points to the Merchant and the Sergeant of the Law being examples of an archetype, but the Franklin being a very real seeming person. Adding to the difficultly is the contextual difficulties - having not been around in the fourteenth century, it is difficult to say how well the portrait of the Franklin fits in with what would be "normal" for a Franklin. Jeremy Pierce 13HJB ...read more.

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