Analysis Of ' The General Prologue '

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Yongzheng Qi Professor Benjamin J Philippi English 201 16 September 2015 Irony in the General Prologue In The General Prologue, Chaucer’s narrator depicts a number of pilgrimages who represent different estates: the chivalrous and righteous Knight, the fashionable young Squire in the military estate; the graceful and merciful Prioresse, the rich Monk who breaks down the tradition, the slick Friar in the clergy estate; the indebted Merchant, the knowledgeable Clerk in the professional estate. That group of people reflects the contemporary situation of the whole English society. Chaucer uses irony as a primarily rhetorical device to reveal the corruption of those people. Squire, Prioresse and Clerk are three typical figures in the poem. As a member of the military estate, the Squire was a complex of traditional and new image of knights. Chaucer’s narrator depicts the Squire as an inexperienced young man: “And born him wel as of so litel space, / In hope to stonden in his lady grace” (87-88). He was an outstanding knight who practiced war in several places, yet he was too young to have much experience in chivalry. In addition, he was not only a brave knight, but he also pursued courtly love with a lady, which made him different from his father. The narrator further describes his behavior as a lover: “Singing he was, or floiting, al the day: / He was as fressh as is the month of May…So hote he loved that by nightertale / He slepte namore than dooth a nightingale. / Curteis he was, lowely, and servisable, / And carf biforn his fader at the table” (91-92, 97-100). The Squire sang and played flute to please “his lady”, he was unable to sleep in the night for suffering the pains of love. He was a bold knight in a war and at th... ... middle of paper ... ...aucer inherently admits the trend of worldly ideas, which partly represents liberty and humanism. Chaucer’s narrator depicts those figures in a variety of classes, even praises some of them literally. Nevertheless, there is a paradox when their appearance and their behaviors were distinguished from what they were supposed to be in traditional ways. In other words, Chaucer uses irony by revealing the difference between the contemporary society and the “old” society. Probably, Chaucer satirizes the whole society, including the hypocritical Prioresse and the traditional Clerk, is because he is shocked by the changes of the English society. He attempts to explore the reason for those changes. Works Cited Chaucer, Geoffrey. "General Prologue." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Abrams, M. H, et al. 9th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. 245-251. Print.
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