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

Chaucer creates humour by satirising values in religious and courtly love. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Extracts from this document...


Chaucer creates humour by satirising values in religious and courtly love. To what extent do you agree with this statement? "The Merchant's Tale is only rarely seen as humorous; most often it is noted for its darkness, its "unrelieved acidity"; it is said to offer a "perversion" of the courtly code."1 I disagree with this statement made by J. S. P. Tatlock. Chaucer was successful at creating humour within his narratives, which is partly why his works were, and still are, so popular. Humour can be achieved through a variety of elements including plot, characterisation, language, timing and circumstance. Chaucer used of all these, but largely drew upon the satirical portrayals of both the courtly love genre and religion within The Merchant's Tale. The tale opens with The Merchant who is envious and astringent of all people that are of a higher class than he; therefore, in his narrative, he targets and satirizes the traditions of the knightly class, including the romantic conventions of courtly love often attributed to the upper classes. Another of Chaucer's tales is The Knight's Tale which is about two knights and close friends, Arcite and Palamon, who are imprisoned by Theseus, duke of Athens. Whilst in prison they fall in love with the beautiful sister of Hippolyta, Emily (Emelye). The sense of competition brought about by this love causes them to hate each other. ...read more.


Courtly love was a contradictory experience between erotic desire and spiritual achievement, "a love at once illicit and morally elevating, passionate and self-disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent".2 At first, Damian seems to possess these qualities and at the wedding of Januarie and May, his desire for adultery is made clear, "So sorre hath Venus hurt him with hire brond". The principles of courtly love are satirised through the characterisation of the characters. Januarie is lecherous, May is greedy and Damian is lustful. These virtues add humour to the narrative, as none of them are worthy heroes. At the end of his wedding, Januarie rushes his guests to leave "as best mighte, savinge his honour" so that he can be with his new wife May. The idea of an "oold and hoor" knight rushing around excitedly and at the same time trying to be polite makes the audience laugh. The genre of courtly love is further satirised through the imagery of May and Damian having s*x in a pear tree, "in he throng", whilst the blind Januarie clings to the trunk underneath. A sense of dramatic irony is achieved here at Januarie's expense, as he, at first, has no knowledge of what is happening whereas the audience, although shocked by the nature of this act, are not particularly surprised by its occurrence. In a story about courtly love, there is usually a reason why the adulterous lover and their partner are not suited for one another. ...read more.


Even the goddess Venus sees the amusement in such a match: 'For Januarie was bicome hir knight', who is far from being young, courageous and noble. In conclusion, The Merchants Tale does satirise both the genre of courtly love and religion to an extent within the narrative, and this frequently creates humour. The conventions of courtly love are satirised through characterisation and exaggerated to such an extent by imagery and tone that the silliness of the events are emphasised and mocked. In particular the 'religion of love' falls prey to the narrator's sarcasm, which serves to enhance our comical appreciation of the witty narrative and its ridiculous characters. Religion is not satirised as much, however the use of misquoting biblical authorities and figures, alongside the blessing of such an ill-fitting couple, does seem to ridicule the church. Although other elements of the narrative, such as the choice of language combined with rhythm and pace, also contribute towards creating humour, it is the over-all conclusion of all these factors which makes The Merchant's Tale a truly successful comedy. 1 J. S. P. Tatlock, "Chaucer's Merchant's Tale ," in Chaucer Criticism: The Canterbury Tales, ad. Richard Schoeck and Jerome Taylor (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1960). p. 175; Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition , p. 231. 2 Francis X. Newman, ed. (1968). The Meaning of Courtly Love, vii. 3 Chaucer's ironic challenges to authority in The Merchant's Tale, John Thorne ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level 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 AS and A Level Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. Courtly Love and Damyan. Chaucer uses conventions of courtly love throughout the Canterbury ...

    However, this lack of interest in Damian as well as the lack of depth to his character can be explained by courtly love. He is so affected by his attraction toward May, and even more so by the conventions of courtly love that he cannot act in a manner that would mark him out as an individual.

  2. Discuss how the concept of courtly love is represented in the Franklin's tale.

    We can infer from the text, as given in quotes above, that the Franklin presents courtly love in a negative light. Clearly, the Franklin disapproves of courtly love; it is represented is an adulterous, melodramatic pursuit, hence the Franklin's apathy for Aurelius.

  1. Chaucer's Irony - The Canterbury Tales

    120, 124), but seems oblivious to the fact that, as a nun, she should not be swearing at all and, having taken a vow of chastity, she should not be speaking in a tongue that was so closely affiliated with s****l connotations as "the language of love".

  2. English society of Chaucer's time

    Chaucer then tells us all about the group he's joined: who they are, what their station in life is, even what they're wearing. He proceeds to give us detailed descriptions of almost all of them, starting with the Knight, the highest-ranking member of the group.

  1. The pardoners prologue and Tale show human nature to lack any redeeming virtues ...

    medieval church, highlighting the corrupt nature of its workings and the papacy as greedy, weak and hypocritical. This view can be supported by the description of the pardoner in the general prologue. Spearing notes that the pardoner's repellent outer appearance reflects his inner corruption.

  2. Geoffrey Chaucer. Through the double narration it can be seen that the narrator ...

    (Line 542-544)" The Millere has an intimidating build and knew well how to steal corn. The Maunciple came from a college of law and used his knowledge to fool people for his own benefit. The Reve is a well-groomed manager of an estate, where no servant dared to speak up about his cunning and deceit.

  1. Chaucer is successful in creating humour in the Wife of Baths prologue and tale.

    to be see Of lusty folk? that she is married in a sense to the whole of the town of bath. She also knew so much about marriage from her past experiences that she could lend advice to an women in her village who had problems with men, almost like

  2. The Triangulation of Love in The Knights Tale

    Yet, they remain locked together in a triangulated relationship, due to their shared desire for Emily. Both remain strongly connected by their psychological rivalry, even when Palamon remains in prison and Arcite is free. Arcite fears that Palamon has ?the victory in this adventure,? while Arcite mourns that Palamon now

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