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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

    "A shockingly cynical picture". In the light of this comment, discuss the Wife of Bath's account of her marriages to her first three husbands. In your response, you should consider:

    4 star(s)

    Moreover, the wife recalls with a boastful tone how "many a night they songen "weilawey!" She also prides herself on her ability to make them bring her "gaye things fro the faire" yet she still "chidde them spituously", highlighting a lack of respect towards her husbands. This is likewise apparent in the wife's tirade against them in which she employs a variety of offensive terms, "olde kaynard" and "olde lechour" being two examples. The relationship that the wife had with her first three husbands was clearly devoid of respect and affection on her part yet she remains firmly unapologetic throughout her account.

    • Word count: 909
  2. 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

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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