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AS and A Level: Geoffrey Chaucer

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Common errors when writing about 'The Canterbury Tales'

  1. 1 Failing to consider language and form as well as the content.
  2. 2 Applying modern views and standards to a 14th century text. For example, modern attitudes to gender relationships and marriage can conflict with attitudes at the time of writing.
  3. 3 Failing to demonstrate appropriate historical/contextual knowledge about:
    Religious beliefs and practices,
    Class and hierarchical structure,
    Social relationships between men and women.

Key terms to use when writing about Chaucer's verse. Ensure you know what they mean!

  1. 1 Middle English.
  2. 2 Rhythmic variety.
  3. 3 Decasyllables.
  4. 4 Caesura.
  5. 5 Rhetoric.

The best essays on 'The Canterbury Tales' are able to give a precise description of all of these kinds of humour

  1. 1 Farce.
  2. 2 Bawdy.
  3. 3 Irony.
  4. 4 Slapstick.
  5. 5 Satire.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 2
  1. Marked by a teacher

    To what extent does the Pardoner manipulate his audience?

    4 star(s)

    In the Canterbury Tales, the Pardoner is the cynical but authoritative voice of truth at its most foul. If a man is clever and perceptive -- if he is not prone to self-delusion, if he has keen insight into himself, into others and into human nature -- then that man will have an ability to manipulate and exploit others -- that is, a consequent temptation to be villainous - that dimmer bulbs will lack. In blunt terms: knowledge is power, and power corrupts.

    • Word count: 1056
  2. 'Merchant's Tale - Marriage'

    Concerning an answer to the question, it is also important to address the relationship between Januarie and May, and the following 'cuckolding'. Is it more a cynical attack on adultery than that of marriage? The fundamental basis for investigating the status of marriage in The Merchant's Tale is to address the initial opinion of the merchant in the Prologue, and the subsequent irony at the beginning of the Tale. Chaucer directs the poem through the narration of the merchant, who has a clear cynical attitude towards his wife (in reaction to The Clerk's Tale and patient Griselda), though not overly

    • Word count: 1689
  3. With reference to lines 91-112 and 163-290, how are the rivals Nicholas and Absalon presented to us by Chaucer in this section? Focus on Chaucer(TM)s use of language and detail to present this contrast?

    In contrast, Absalon's looks and clothes are described in great detail to portray his vanity and flamboyancy. His 'Poules window corven on his shoes' draws focus to the intricate details of his appearance so that the reader is required to take into account Absalon's intense care for his looks. His curly blonde hair is fashioned into an extravagant fan shape; 'strouted as a fanne large and brode' that displays his desire to keep up with the fashion, and the blonde curls create a sense of childlike innocence. His clothing also supports his flamboyancy, 'Ycald he was ful smal and proprely' with red stocking, a blue tunic which was lavishly fastened.

    • Word count: 1614
  4. How does Chaucers prologue prepare us for the millers tale?

    We see him challenging those whom have power during the tale by striking out against The Church. We see the preparation for this disregard of The Church's authority in the prologue for it is in front of the monk, a member of the group, that the Miller speaks. This is showing great disrespect for as a religious figure the monk would be seen as the Miler's superior. This can relate to how the only member of the clergy in the tale is one who is thought of as inferior to everyone else. It would be thought of as disrespectful towards the monk top tell his tale, not only for the acts which take place but also because of the creation of Absolon.

    • Word count: 1294
  5. Is Absolon to be mocked or pitied?

    Absolon's biblical namesake also was proud of his hair and he to is shown to be a fool. It was because of his vanity and need to have long hair that Absolon's namesake was killed. I sense that there is a connection which can be established in the downfall of these characters and their vanity. Absolon is mocked because of his hair and attention to detail in his appearance and therefore he is not taken seriously ending in his final embarrassment at the window.

    • Word count: 1027
  6. Chaucer creates humour by satirising values in religious and courtly love. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    The sense of competition brought about by this love causes them to hate each other. They eventually get let out of prison and fight each other to win the girl. Arcite wins the battle, but dies before he can claim Emily, so Palamon marries her. The story introduces many typical aspects of knighthood such as courtly love and ethical dilemmas. The Merchant's Tale begins with a description of Januarie who is presented, satirically, as "A worthy knight". The Merchant however attempts to display to the audience that this knight is not worthy at all. He contrasts him to the knights in The Knight's Tale.

    • Word count: 1885
  7. Quotes from the Miller's Tale

    his wife despite promise "his owene hand he made ladders thre" p46 Ironic brings about his own downfall "he sente his knave and eek his wenche also, upon his need to London"p47 Unsympathetic believes he is leaving his servants to die He was holde wood in al the toun"p53 Idiom destroyed his reputation Alisoun "Fair was this younge wyf and therewithal as any wezele hir body gent and small"p34 Parody of a courtly lover in a romance has a lyrical quality bathos "Ful smale ypulled were hire browes two"p34 Cynicism and satire in courtly romances a woman was perfect "She

    • Word count: 1800
  8. In what ways is The Merchant's Tale a response to The Clerk's Tale?

    This could be seen as a comment upon the perception of clerks as being far more honest than merchants in Chaucerian society - despite Walter's great deception of his wife when hiding their two children from her, he is still presented in a positive, honest light throughout the tale. This reinforces his credibility as a character, which has the effect of the Clerk being able to present his views on marriage very clearly through the protagonist. It is vitally important that both tales are set in Lombardy, though the setting is very different in both tales.

    • Word count: 1411
  9. Discuss how the concept of courtly love is represented in the Franklin's tale.

    It was, in theory, a chaste pursuit, and not for sexual purposes; Aurelius clearly sees it differently. The brave and foolhardy deeds to the whim of the lady then continue until she shows some form of concern or pity toward the young man; then, there is supposed to be a secret, painful passion between the two, and they get married unless she is already married; if this is the case, the love should be static and unrequited so as not to disrupt the marriage.

    • Word count: 1230
  10. Explore your relationship with the wife of bath

    For example, she quotes, " Oon of us two moste bowen, douteles;, And sith a man is moore reasonableThan woman is, ye moste been suffrable." (lines 440-2) She makes her husbands give in to her by saying that their "superior" male nature should make them give up the fight more easily. She therefore wins by exploiting all the stereotypes about women. Of course, this argument shows the wife at her cleverest. Like Gilbert and Gubar, my first impression of the wife is that she is a clever and independent woman, whose tricks and schemes have already got her through five marriages.

    • Word count: 1413
  11. Analysis of lines 125 - 300 of The Merchant's Tale

    they are wise possibly shows the Merchant either understanding why a man would want to marry or it could be him again being very sarcastic. Januarie the central character of the tale, calls his friends to him in line 187 onwards, in order to tell them that he has decided that, because he is 'hoor and oold', it is time for him to marry. He wants to find a girl who 'shal nat passe twenty yeer' and he wants her in order to fulfil his sexual desires.

    • Word count: 1829
  12. The franklins tale raises issues about what it really means to be "noble" Consider how this tale forms an examination of the values that held medieval society together and how this is subtly questioned by Chaucer.

    Gentillesse was a code of behavior associated with the noble class. This included a number of qualities. Generosity, chivalrous or gentlemanly deeds, bravery, social graces, delicacy of feelings, integrity and many others. A man could appear to be genteel by wearing expensive clothes and possessed the qualities of the noble class. However, he would never be officially genteel or noble if he was not born into it. A man who was stupid, lazy, and poor and chose not to fight would still have been considered genteel and noble and could wear a coat of arms just from his heriditory.

    • Word count: 1753
  13. Dear Arch Bishop of Canterbury, (letter on Geoffry Chaucer's 'The General Prologue').

    This shows he is not a honourable monk that does not want to worship god. The monk is very greedy and self-absorbed he is there just for the money; he does not care about serving the world "Let Austyn have his swynk to hym reserved". The monk is extremely self indulgent because as a religious person he should dedicate his life to god and his people. However, we can clearly see that this monk has not because his duties include praying but he does not seem to take any pride in that because he is always busy riding his horses.

    • Word count: 1520
  14. Paying close attention to the passage, comment on what insights this offers into the Pardoner's concerns and methods - (The Pardoner's Prologue, lines 141-176).

    We can see this from how he boasts "kan I maken oother folk to twynne/ From avarice, and soore to repente" and "A moral tale yet I yow tell kan,/ Which I am wont to preche". Thus, we see that the Pardoner does not see the seriousness of his sins, and furthermore feels that he is very successful in his job because he is skilful and experienced in performing. His skill and experience is later shown again when he says "For lewed peple loven tales olde;/ Swiche thinges kan they wel reporte and holde".

    • Word count: 1005
  15. Chaucer's Irony - The Canterbury Tales

    240), we can take it to mean that he spends very much time drinking, flirting and socialising in pubs. The Friar is superseded to be a holy man, but we see that he knew the landlords and barmaids much better than the people he has meant to be consoling, praying for and helping out of the vicious circle of poverty. Chaucer the pilgrim explains how impressive the Friar's generous charity is and has respect for the way he marries off young girls with suitable husbands and pays for the ceremony. However, he neglects to mention that the only reason the Friar does this is because he has illegitimately gotten them pregnant in clandestine, despite claiming to be celibate.

    • Word count: 1296
  16. How appropriate is it that the character of the Pardoner tells the tale?

    He could be trying to convince the pilgrims that he is a priest as well as showing off by using Latin words in his speech. The Pardoner is a living example of not practising what he preaches as his main motivation is greed and not the well being of the people he preaches to. "A lecherous thing is wyn, and dronkenesse Is ful of striving and of wrecchednesse. O dronke man, disfigured is thy face, Sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace."

    • Word count: 1826
  17. Chaucer is successful in creating humour in the Wife of Baths prologue and tale.

    is used to emphasize the ridicule of the wife of Bath in whom Chaucer satirizes. An example of this is found in lines 706-710 where the wife of Bath is implying that mature scholars unable to hold an erection anymore write ?tell-tale? attacks against women at the bitterness of their impotence. It is possible that she may be indirecting Jankin?s future with her as he himself is indeed a scholar. She says ?Therefore no woman of no clerk is preysed. The clerk, when he is oold and may nought do, of Venus werkes worth his olde sho, Thanne sit he down and writ in his dotage That women kan nat kepe hir marriage.? This is

    • Word count: 1032
  18. The Triangulation of Love in The Knights Tale

    Their undifferentiated personalities and unquestioned loyalty to one another form the original strong and stable foundation of the triangle. Palamon and Arcite?s first vision of Emily instantly creates the third point of the love triangle and completely restructures the geometry of the story. This love at first sight brings a new dimensionality to the relationship and individuality of Arcite and Palamon. Emily represents the object of desire and at first the cousins appear to relate to her in a virtually identical manner. But on a closer reading, a subtle distinction between them is already evident. Palamon, who was the first to spy Emily, accuses Arcite of having a ?mystical?holy love? for Emily as opposed to his own love for

    • Word count: 1140

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Chaucer creates humour by satirising values in religious and courtly love. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    "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"

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

    "In conclusion, courtly love is represented in the Franklin's Tale in quite a negative light; although it could be said that the love between Dorigen and Averagus is courtly and true, it is not typical of courtly love; the vows break the traditions of courtly love, and in the Franklin's tale, the focus is on the courtly love of Aurelius for Dorigen. Chaucer, speaking through the Franklin and through Dorigen, presents courtly love as a lustful, superficial, overblown concept. The Franklin's clear apathy regarding Aurelius is perhaps the best example of Chaucer's attitude; he uses the Franklin to present his own ideas regarding courtly love, which he seems to believe is a mere fa�ade for adultery and melodrama. The way the Tale is written certainly shows contempt for courtly love, as outlined in examples, and Chaucer seems cynical of the realities of courtly love. Harry Dayantis JRB"

  • A sinister exploration of the nature of evil Discuss Chaucers poetic methods in presenting evil in the pardoners prologue and tale in the light of this comment.

    "To conclude, I believe that a 'sinister exploration of evil' is truly presented in the pardoner's prologue and tale. Chaucer uses characterization of the pardoner and three rioters to present how corrupt medieval society was, as well as how readily sins were committed. The pardoner's simile of as dooth a dowve sittynge on a berne to describe how he sees himself is used as an antithesis of his own character; as a dove carries religious connotations of peace and purity; the opposite to what the pardoner is. Despite infiltrating some holy and pure characters, such as the Old man, he only further emphasises the lack of good in the other characters. Overall, Chaucer constructs the prologue and tale in such a way to present several layers of evil in the Canterbury tales."

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