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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.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Select two or three portraits from the General Prologue and discuss Chaucer's use of variety of detail in comparing and contrasting characters.

    As the name is fashionable, it reinforces the idea that she is yearning to be admired by others. It seems clear that she has a penchant for the more materialistic view because she should have asked herself 'what's in a name' and it seems that the reply she would have given would have been 'quite a lot'. Her looks back up her romantic image as they suggest well-breeding and describe her as attractive, and also by the narrator spending so long on her looks, it makes her seems like the emphasis for her, is how she looks to others.

    • Word count: 2136
  2. 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
  3. Do you feel any sympathy for Januarie?

    Throughout the Merchant's Tale circumlocution is used to argue the case for a 'wholesome' marital lifestyle as opposed to a 'sinful' hedonistic lifestyle, the reader is so engaged by the merchant's convolutions that the obvious bypasses us. Januarie is the man who could have anything and everything, anything on a material level that is. One might question whether potentially an individual apparently contented with his lifestyle could turn around and willingly sacrifice it. Januarie, in spite of his intellectual limitations, has clearly put his life on the balance and assessed what really matters, Januarie chooses his God over everything else "And for to lyve under that hooly boond".

    • Word count: 877
  4. 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
  5. In Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the element of irony is frequently used in order to enhance the moral principles of the tales and to mock the flaws in society.

    The queen then speaks upon his behalf and presents him with the challenge to find what women want most in the world. This is ironic itself considering the fact that although the knight rapes a woman, it is yet another woman who "importuned the king so long for mercy that in the end he granted him his life and gave him to the queen to dispose of" (Chaucer 241). Furthermore, the king is the one who gave all of his power into his wife's hands, allowing her to do as her will with the knight.

    • Word count: 720
  6. 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
  7. English society of Chaucer's time

    That's why a move from the peasant to the middle class, for example, was almost unheard of. The middle class was in its infancy then. Chaucer himself was a member of what we'd call the upper middle class; he got jobs at court without actually being royalty. He started out as a page, serving meals and learning the ropes of becoming a courtly gentleman. He also quickly found out about the conflicting whims of human nature and the importance of the right appearances, both lessons he draws on in the Canterbury Tales.

    • Word count: 32067
  8. The Friar Portrait

    He is a "limitour" which means that he is licensed to beg within a certain area. Chaucer uses irony as he states that the Friar is a "ful solempne man" which implies that the Friar is a most impressive man. The irony of this comes out in the next lines as Chaucer states that while hearing confessions the Friar gave the best pardon to those who contributed the maximum amount of money. This indicates the Friars concern for profit and shows his moral corruptness as he uses his status in society to receive benefits rather than doing his actual job which is to preach and to be faithful and follow the Catholic religion.

    • Word count: 625
  9. According to what principles, and for what purposes, do Twentieth Century women-writers revise and rewrite fairy tales? You should illustrate your answer from at least three stories.

    art form.3 The subversive nature of Carter's tales is bound up in the history of the genre and the sources of her stories. Fairy tales are at once subversive and conformative, both structurally and morally; Carter toys with the disparity of this inherent contradiction. The original sources for Carter's works 'The Werewolf,' 'The Company of Wolves' and 'Wolf-Alice' lie in the 'Little Red Riding Hood' stories. Bettelheim reads the original tale as speaking of 'human passions, oral greediness, aggression and pubertal sexual desires.'4 As the tale has developed and been retold the Red Riding Hood figure has aged so that in the Twentieth Century she has reached puberty, yet importantly her virginity is intact.

    • Word count: 3826
  10. 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
  11. The Merchant's Tale. Consider how the power balance has been subtly altered from line 843 onwards, and how Chaucer has demonstrated this.

    When Januarie becomes physically blind, this becomes a fulfilment of the metaphorical blindness of self-delusion which has afflicted him from the outset. On line 386, the audience are reminded of the proverb ?love is blind?, and Januarie?s character has been built up to this point as a demonstration of the truth of this saying.

    • Word count: 609
  12. 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
  13. 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

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