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

Discuss differences in effect and structure created by the first-person narration in Dante's The Inferno, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Extracts from this document...


Discuss differences in effect and structure created by the first-person narration in Dante's The Inferno, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Dante completed The Inferno, the first part of his epic redemptive poem The Divine Comedy, around 1314. This date could technically fall under the label of the Renaissance, but it was at a very early stage and the humanistic revival of art and culture had yet to reach anywhere near the full impact it would later achieve. Dante did not live to see the widespread influence of humanism and its effect on the world of literature, although there is much evidence in Dante's writing of humanistic inclinations. Humanism literally means 'the study of man' and can be conceived of as an awakening of the self, both in its personal application and in the social and political implications on Renaissance-era European society. Until the Renaissance began to establish itself over the course of the fourteenth century, European citizens had very much regarded themselves as part of a collective cultural or political way of thinking. The introduction of philosophy, art, literature, poetry and increasingly well-defined systems of morality gave many Europeans a feeling of liberation and the confidence to explore their individuality. It was encouraged to study classic literature, as well as all other forms of art that liberate the mind. ...read more.


Dante faints with grief in the second circle of hell, only to awake in the third. There is no need to explain this transportation, as we are seeing only what Dante sees and have only the same information at our disposal as Dante is able to gather while conscious. Before Dante, there was Chaucer, who showed no such concessions to the evolution of humanism. His medieval tales do not break stylistic or linguistic boundaries, but rather work with the traditional literary techniques of the day to create a world inhabited by colourful yet less three-dimensional characters than those who later evolved in the works of Dante and beyond. It is my belief that the first-person narration performs an entirely different function in this case, than the realism and atmosphere invoked from Dante's believable interactions. Each of Chaucer's characters has a tale to tell. It is not always their own tale, but it is the tale which they are telling, and through which they present themselves. For they are presenting themselves, rather than merely being presented by Chaucer. But they are not only addressing the anonymous potential audience of Chaucer's future readership, but their companions on the pilgrimage. They speak to us as well as them, often revealing more about themselves that they seem to realise. ...read more.


He uses the technique to have his characters paint an often unintentionally but unmistakably honest portrait of his characters as revealed in their own voice. His characters are, for the most part, far from heroic, and Dante does himself no such injustices while narrating The Inferno. In conclusion, it can be seen that Dante and Chaucer choose to employ first person narration for vastly different reasons. In the case of The Inferno, this perspective is ideal for the introduction of humanistic literary techniques and an increase in the importance of individual characterisation above role and gender stereotypes. It also increases the elements of adventure, as we are very close to Dante and the unfolding events. Ultimately, it serves to heighten the solo hope and futility of his epic quest (although not travelling alone, his destination is ultimately a personal one), while enriching the journey with the detail of characterisation and the characterisation of personally perceived detail. Chaucer, on the other hand, has far more mischievous motivations, and employs the first person perspective throughout his many tales in order that the characters get a fair chance to present themselves and that we get a fair chance to judge them. He relishes the fact that, given enough rope, they will inevitably satirise themselves to a degree that cannot be argued with. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

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

  1. Role of Women in the Canterbury Tales.

    This causes the narrator to take an aside from the story to tell us his own opinion on women but says that it is the belief of many men and not his own in an attempt to perhaps cover himself.

  2. How Is The Character Of Absolon Presented In The Miller's Tale?

    the tale with a realistic element; it is not difficult to imagine such a character in real life and the concept has frequently been used in movies. Chaucer uses a variety of language techniques to portray the contrasts with Absolon and other characters but also to show his general importance in the tale.

  1. The satirically reasonable voice of Desiderius Erasmus.

    Erasmus through this highlights the commodification of religion. Erasmus introduces a third character whose fury is more pointed. Ogygius next tells Menedemus about the experience he had at the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury with his friend Pullus. At Canterbury, Pullus rages against the commodification of relics.

  2. With special reference to The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, would you describe ...

    say sooth: the husbands that I had as three of them were good and two were bad"3 and she also considers herself an expert, which proves how headstrong she is, "Of which I am an expert in all mine age"4.The Wife does not conform to the stereotypical role of a woman in the 14th century.

  1. Write an essay on the variety of ways in which Chaucer treats the subject ...

    through her life, converts not only her husband and brother, but also the officials who were charged to execute her, with her constant exhortation in faith, "Gooth to the corone of lif that may nat faille".

  2. Are fairytales 'just' stories for children? Refer to at least two tales in ...

    Fairy tales are magical. They may provide a window to another world, a chance to look beyond the mundane. They may provide a means of relief from some of this world's troubles simply in their otherworldliness. This otherworldliness is one of the many questioned virtues of fairy tales.

  1. The Wife of Bath's Tale is an exemplum, providing an answer to the question, ...

    Through her words, and mostly through her actions, the Wife of Bath expresses her views on a wife's domination through her own life story. The Wife of Bath's Tale is an exemplum, providing an answer to the question, "What do women want?"

  2. 'Langland's Piers Plowman greatly influenced The Canterbury Tales'. Discuss, with particular reference to estates ...

    The knight realises that ploughing is not his social calling and promises 'to fulfille this forward, though I fight sholde; / Als longe as I lyve I shal thee mayntene' (VI. 35-6). This exchange is an example of Langland's interest in the relationships between the estates, and the benefits of those interactions to each person in society.

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