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The Satik Of Morality In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

analytical Essay
1150 words
1150 words
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Chaucer 's characters appear heavily invested in the belief that the gods and the stars, not their own earthbound decisions and abilities, control their fates. Their steadfast faith in the power and prudence of the gods contrasts sharply with their often visible lack of confidence in themselves. Is this lack of confidence born out of the characters ' deference to the gods? Or conversely, is this obsession with the supernatural perhaps an attempt to rationalize, excuse, and possibly overcome their previous and potential shortcomings of which the characters are so often aware? In a collection of tales in which pride, honor, superlative excellence, and supernatural influence are so prominent, the rampant confusion, self-doubt, and "negative boasts" …show more content…

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how chaucer's characters appear invested in the belief that the gods and the stars, not their own earthbound decisions and abilities, control their fates.
  • Analyzes how the woman indicts fortune as the source of her plight, rather than naming a god, such as mars or jupiter or saturn, and convincing the duke that sustained generosity and nobility is needed to keep lady luck at his table.
  • Analyzes how chaucer's characters place their miseries on fortune, wrath, and other inside-out-like personifications of forces and emotions, but they place all the power to do good in the hands of the gods.
  • Analyzes how chaucer's pilgrims bounce between arrogance and self-doubt. each pilgrim claims to have a tale good enough to match, or "quite," the previous tale told.
  • Analyzes how chaucer's ostentatious confusion about pagan theology is a subtle means by which he intends to distance himself from the non-christian beliefs widespread in his opening tale.
  • Opines that in a historic work in which power and judgment—often coming from lords and gods— are driving forces of the characters' actions, perhaps nobody is given more power by characters, narrators, and than the reader, to whom all who speak make constant appeal throughout the collection.

Each pilgrim claims to have a tale good enough to match, or "quite," the previous tale told. The constant presence of competition in the tales—which often takes on an odd tone, as the combatants treat it more as a debate over whom the gods will or should choose to support and guide to victory— is echoed by the "route" of travellers telling them. And yet, as each character boasts of his or her tale, they constantly hedge their own bets, warning of the possibility that they might err in some way as they tell their story, and asking their company to absolve them of their flaws in advance. The most striking example of this is the Miller. The drunk, boorish Miller interrupts the pecking order, leaping over "better" men such as the Monk and the Man of Law in order to share a tale with which he plans to "quite the Knightes tale." When told by the Host to know his place, he threatens to leave the company unless he is permitted to tell his tale, and has to this point come across as brash and very confident in his abilities. However, when the Host relents and allows the Miller to have the floor, he backtracks: "But first I make a protestacioun, That I am dronke--- I knowe it by my soun." While the Pagans in the Knight 's tale blame failures on Fortune, the Miller, far more plain and earthly than the Knight or any of his characters, has a more practical scapegoat in mind: the …show more content…

At times, he appears to be pandering to expectations of modesty, telling the readers at the outset that "my wit is short, ye may wel understonde." On multiple occasions, he breaks the fourth wall, jokingly criticizing his own rhyming abilities (through his own characters, of course) or having others lament that there is no story they can tell that Chaucer has not already told. Before the Miller 's tale, he apologizes for the crudity of the story (giving the excuse that it is the Miller spewing such ribaldry, not Chaucer himself), and asking his readers to "noght make ernest of game " (advice which perhaps his overly competitive pilgrims would do well to heed). Chaucer 's moments of uncertainty arise in his tales as well as his prologues, such as when he inserts himself into the Knight 's Tale after Arcite 's death, saying that he cannot possibly know where departed souls go when they leave the Earth. Chaucer 's proud quest to turn previously foreign classics into informative English poetry is in many ways a quest to prove the extent of his knowledge and abilities, which makes it most conspicuous that he inserts himself into a tale to tell the reader that there is a gap in his knowledge. Perhaps Chaucer 's ostentatious confusion when it comes to pagan theology is a subtle means by which he intends to distance himself from the non-Christian beliefs widespread in the setting of his opening

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