Contradictions in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

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Contradictions in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

There is no question that contradictory values make up a major component of The Canterbury Tales. Fate vs. Fortuna, knowledge vs. experience and love vs. hate all embody Chaucer's famous work. These contrasting themes are an integral part of the complexity and sophistication of the book, as they provide for an ironic dichotomy to the creative plot development and undermine the superficial assumptions that might be made. The combination of completely contradictory motifs leads to the unusual stories and outcomes that come to play out in the tales. And these outcomes draw focus on the larger universal issues that in many cases transcend the boundaries of vernacular periods to all of humanity. That is the essence and success of the tales; their themes are universal and their irony is still applicable today.

Madame Eglentine, Chaucer?s Prioress, demonstrates an excellent example of the clash between divergent values. In many ways, her description in the General Prologue personifies the model medieval woman: religious, elegant, innocent, loving and sentimental. Yet clearly there is a vast contrast between her description and the vicious, anti-Semitic account of the young boy mutilated in the Ghetto. It is this contrast which points out the ?binaries? or opposites which make up the Prioress?s character. Her tale involves a bigotry that is unmatched in all of The Canterbury Tales as shown in the following passage:

?And as the boy passed at his happy pace

This cursed Jew grabbed him and held him, slit

His little throat and cast him in a pit?I say, into a privy-drain (Chaucer 190).?

While most would agree that this tale represents a love vs. hate contrast, contemporary...

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