Monday, October 30, 2006

Module 3 (Chaucer): The Prologue

1. What is the point of the Cantebury Tales?

The point of this tale is to offer different social commentary on Chaucer's time from the perspectives of very different characters. Through the fables and stories each character tells, we not only receive life lessons, but are also able to contrast the morals taught with the person(s) telling them. This reveals many different human characteristics such as honor (in the Knight's case), hypocrisy (as in the Pardoner's tale) and even hints of sexual promescuity (as with the Wife of Bath).

2. How do you think Chaucer will approach topics like marriage, fidelity, religion, economics? Are there any hints in the text? if so, what are they?

Initially, with the beauty and grace used to describe the Spring season they are entering as well as the pilgrimage itself to the holy place of Canterbury, I thought Chaucer might be very gentle in his treatment of marriage, fidelity and religion. But early in the Prologue we are given hints that Chaucer holds a certain contempt for people of the cloth. The Prioress is a nun, but she seems more occupied by keeping up the appearances and behavior of royalty. The Friar and the Monk characters are blatently corrupt and are almost proud to say so. Later in the story, the Pardoner happily reveals the false nature of the relics he carries, yet still asks for contributions from the group as if it's a part of his "script" he cannot avoid.

3. What is most captivating about this piece?

The Prologue of the Canterbury Tales stands apart from other stories (even ones in more modern times) because of the tremendous detail we're given about its characters. Just as much of this story is spent describing minute details of each character as is spent telling their individual tales. As one example, Chaucer spends a significant amount of time describing the Prioress's table manners and how regally she behaves. He also makes specific mention of how she interacts with her pets. All of these elements come together to create a very realistic character that the reader can identify with. This detail is also found in his description of other characters (the Squire's young, handsome appearance; the loud, ringing bells of the Monk's bridle; etc.). I personally feel this is why this story has survived so strongly through the ages. We're planted firmly among the group's members, and the realism of their portrayal allows us to connect with them as real people.

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