The General Prologue of Canterbury Tales critical comment


Chaucer`s The General Prologue opens with the description of spring in month of April, according to Chaucer this month provides material occasion and spiritual yearning for going on pilgrimage. This conventional thought of Chaucer added a strength to English literature. The General Prologue begins with the beautiful memorable description of spring season and wonderful character introduction from different classes of medieval English society. The Prologue define various pilgrims from different culture and corners of England assembled Tabard Inn and going to The Canterbury, to visit the shrine of St. Thomas Becket who martyred in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The way Chaucer portray the pilgrims suggests a sense of community and their varied background make the description a miniature version of 14th century society.

The Portrait:

Geoffrey Chaucer was a good observer of people`s behavior, he was familiar with human`s mind before it become scientific it exemplified in The Canterbury Tales. The Canterbury Tale has a large number of characters, every character is an evident of Chaucer`s masterful creation. He develops lifelike characters and paints each one with meticulous attention to the details as being known for his characterization skills.

The Prologue begins with the picture of 29 pilgrims and Chaucer himself visiting the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket who was most powerful figure of his time. The first portrait is of The Knight, an idealized and chivalry gentle in speech and manner. Squire, son of Knight, Knight`s Yeoman, The Prioress, The Monk, The Friars, The Merchant, The Clerk, The Sergeant of the Law, The Franklin, The Shipman, five Guildsmen and The Wife of Bath and The Host are the Character portrayals of the narrator.

Chaucer uses beautiful cultural color to describe the characters as he uses in his writings. He portrays various people with meticulous details, he is indeed a brilliant painter (who works with words instead colors). His meticulous attention to the tiniest details of his characters, for instance the detail analyze of clothing of the characters, appearance and demeanor allows him to portray them as real people rather than bloodless abstractions.

His Prologue is a genuine photo gallery with 30 pictures on the walls each with his own unique features and quirks. The General Prologue of Canterbury Tale is like a big parade as it has all the flavors of life like; movement, color and music.

The Canterbury Tale`s characters have come from different part of cities with different mindset. They actually represent the moral and social class of English society of mediaeval period. Therefore, the pilgrims in the Prologue are suitable for people of all ages and all parts of life.

In English literature, Chaucer has highest ranking as an outstanding characterization portrayal, the pilgrims symbolize various professions in the `Tale` like; Physician, tradesmen, Merchant, soldier, an Oxford clerk, The Knight, The Nun and Yeoman etc. Agriculture is defined by ploughman, Miller, Reeve and Franklin. The liberal professions are represented by The Sergeant (The Man of the Law) and the writer himself.

The Wife of Bath, the weaver and the Merchant and the Shipman represents trade industry and the provisional transaction are represented by a Cook and the Host. The secular clergy are represented by the poor person and the summoner whereas the monastic communities are portrayed through the Monk, the Prioress (Nun) and the Pardoner.

Therefore, the characters in the Canterbury Tales are both types of individuals as each symbolizes a specific certain profession and come from the social class. The Canterbury Tale`s character depicts specific individual traits completely through their own peculiarities of clothing and speech.

In the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer describes each man`s horse, furnishing and array. Chaucer explains things in the most natural and amusing way. Although, his characters are typical of their trade, the characters are unique to them. As a result, his character stands out among their peers, because he imbues them with uniqueness. These unique features imparts every individual for example; The Shipman has a beard and Wife of Bath is deaf and goat tooth, the Reeve has long and thin legs, the Miller has a wart topped by a tuft of hair on his nose, the Summoner`s face is full of pimples and the Squire is as fresh as the month of May.

In Canterbury Tales, every pilgrim has their own approach. Chaucer alternates between full length portraits and thumbnail drawings, even in the sketches Chaucer communicates a great feeling of personality and portrayal.

Chaucer does not utilize a theatrical technique instead he employs a descriptive and narrative style that is appropriate and appealing. Also these style of narration completely justify the subject of the characters of Canterbury Tales.

Geoffrey Chaucer unlike Wycliff and Langland has a wide compassion and affection for all the characters, both good and bad. Their characteristics are universal and even though some have changed the place, their essence remain the same. To portray the characters Chaucer has used the contrast method for example; the Ploughman are paragons of virtue while the Reeve, the Miller and the Summoner are monsters of vice.

Geoffrey Chaucer`s characterization like Shakespeare are dimensions with length, width and depth, for example; The Wife of Bath and the Monk are complicated characters of Canterbury while on the other hand the Knight is portrayed as brave, chivalry who fought 100- year war and honorable fellow of Canterbury Tales.

Hence, Geoffrey Chaucer was simply a true legend of art and literature. In the Canterbury Tales, he beautifully portrays all the characters with his skillful writing. Geoffrey Chaucer is considered as the father of English literature. He was the first writer who introduces mid dialect in his poetry in the Canterbury Tales. He is also known for setting the style of middle English literature

5 thoughts on “The General Prologue of Canterbury Tales critical comment

  1. Shabnam Haider 4 Mar 2022 / 6:31 am

    Geoffrey Chaucer was a true legend of English literature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shabnam Haider 4 Mar 2022 / 6:38 am

    hello wordpress bloggers do support my site.

    Liked by 1 person

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