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

The General Prologue

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

The General Prologue The most popular part of the Canterbury Tales is the General Prologue, which has long been admired for the lively, individualized portraits it offers. More recent criticism has reacted against this approach, claiming that the portraits are indicative of social types, part of a tradition of social satire, "estates satire", and insisting that they should not be read as individualized character portraits like those in a novel. Yet it is sure that Chaucer's capacity of human sympathy, like Shakespeare's, enabled him to go beyond the conventions of his time and create images of individualized human subjects that have been found not merely credible but endearing in every period from his own until now. It is the General Prologue that serves to establish firmly the framework for the entire story-collection: the pilgrimage that risks being turned into a tale-telling competition. The title "General Prologue" is a modern invention, although a few manuscripts call it prologus. There are very few major textual differences between the various manuscripts. The structure of the General Prologue is a simple one. After an elaborate introduction in lines 1 - 34, the narrator begins the series of portraits (lines 35 - 719). ...read more.

Middle

The narrator expresses surprisingly strong support for the Monk's chosen style of living. The Friar follows, and by now it seems clear that Chaucer has a special interest in church-people who so confidently live in contradiction with what is expected of them; the narrator, though, gives no sign of feeling any problem, as when he reports that the "worthy" Friar avoided the company of lepers and beggars. By this point the alert reader is alert to the narrator's too-ready use of 'worthy' but critics are still unsure of what Chaucer's intended strategy was here. The Merchant is briefly described, and is followed by the Clerk of Oxenford (Oxford) who is as sincere a student as could be wished: poor, skinny like his horse, and book-loving. The Sergeant at Law is an expert lawyer, and with him is the Franklin, a gentleman from the country whose main interest is food: "It snowed in his house of meat and drink." Then Chaucer adds a brief list of five tradesmen belonging to the same fraternity, dressed in its uniform: a Haberdasher, a Carpenter, a Weaver, a Dyer and a Tapestry-maker. None of these is described here or given a Tale to tell later. ...read more.

Conclusion

The narrator of this Prologue is Chaucer, but this pilgrim Chaucer is not to be too simply identified with the author Chaucer. He explains that in what follows, he is only acting as the faithful reporter of what others have said, without adding or omitting anything; he must not then be blamed for what he reports. Neither must he be blamed if he does not put people in the order of their social rank, "My wit is short, ye may well understand." This persona continues to profess the utter naivety that we have already noted in his uncritical descriptions of the pilgrims. It is in this way, too, that we should approach the conclusion of the Prologue. Here the Host of the Tabard Inn (Harry Bailey, a historical figure) decides to go with them and ironically it is he, not Chaucer, who proposes the story-telling contest that gives the framework of the Tales. He will also be the ultimate judge of which is the best: "of best sentence and most solas." He is, after all, well prepared by his job to know about the tales people tell! One model for the literary competition would seem to be the meetings of people interested in poetry, known in French as puys, with which Chaucer would have been familiar. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE 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 GCSE Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. "What do the first 149 lines of the Merchant's prologue and Tale tell us ...

    This detailed list of property is revealing as it shows where the Merchants values lie and illustrates a patriarchal society. In previous scenes the audience are advised that women are untrustworthy; yet here we gain another contradictive view, that presents women in a positive light 'they been so trewe' (L, 84-86).

  2. Remind yourself of the portrait of the Franklin and his prologue and discuss the ...

    he has no knowledge of and is skills at public speaking are limited. This disclaimer is not meant to be taken seriously by the reader, as apologising for ones lacking rhetorical skill is ironically itself a rhetorical device intended to gain sympathy from the reader.

  1. Discuss Chaucer's use of variety in The Merchant's Prologue and Tale.

    The wedding of Januarie and May takes place when Mars and Venus are in conjunction. This combination of the warring god and the god of love cannot bode well for the marriage, especially combined with the heavily ironic emphasis on Januarie's concern for having his Heaven on Earth.

  2. Compare and contrast the presentation of three pilgrims from Chaucer's General Prologue' and show ...

    Although she had been on a number of pilgrimages, especially to Jerusalem, Chaucer writes that she is often found "wandrynge by the weye" on them, passing "many a strange strem". The alliteration here draws our attention to these details. Chaucer's ambiguity towards some pilgrim's motives for being on the pilgrimage

  1. Compare and contrast the presentation of three pilgrims from Chaucer's 'General Prologue' and show ...

    the Monk goes hunting his bridle bells are "eeke as loude as dooth the chapel belle", it is ironic that he is compared to a chapel bell because that is where he should be in a chapel praying in a cloistered environment; however this simile is used to describe how loud he is as he riding out to hunt.

  2. Carnival and Pilgrimage in The Canterbury Tales

    The pilgrimage sets�m the tavern in Southwark, a festive banquet setting, and proceeds to Saint Thomas 'a Watering, a place of execution. Against this menacing background, the Knight is chosen by lot to tell the first tale; the Host then calls on the Monk as the person next highest in

  1. General Notes on Chaucer and the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

    of members of society could plausibly join together on relatively equal terms. Chaucer's idea of a Canterbury Pilgrimage is thus very unusual (there is an Italian analogue, the Novelle of Giovanni Sercambi, in which Sercambi tells tales to amuse the pilgrims he leads, but it probably postdates Chaucer; see p.

  2. Chaucer: Satire And Humor

    He likes to sit around and just stare at the sky, and he also likes to sit and play the flute (Chaucer 4). I believe that Chaucer is trying to portray the Squire as being very confused, and even though he may have a lot to offer the world, he still has to find the time to grow up.

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