Geoffrey Chaucer, the daddy of English poetry, is without doubt one of the first English brief story-tellers and the best humorists in English literature. He’s thought-about realist as he depicts the precisely unbiased and impartial image of his society. His “The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales” comes out primarily within the type of satire, irony and humour. He’s very a lot witted and sharp and his curiosity lies in portraying the characters slightly than in exposing. His object is to level life as he sees it, to carry up the mirror to society, and, as has justly been stated, “a mirror has no tendency, it displays, however it doesn’t, or mustn’t, distort”. Chaucer has proven hatred for none of his characters however as humanist has portrayed them genially as Legouis and Cazamian comment “of all writers of genius Chaucer is one with whom it’s best to have a way of comradeship.”

Definitions of Satire

In accordance with Encyclopaedia Britannica, the nice English lexicographer Samuel Johnson defines satire as “a poem by which wickedness or folly is censured.” It may be seen in lots of English poems comparable to The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, Absolom and Achitophel by Dryden, The Rape of the Lock by Pope, and The Paradise Misplaced by John Milton. In all poems, talked about poets have criticized the impiety and immorality of their topic. Chaucer has depicted depravity of the members of his society. Milton has harshly uncovered the sinfulness of the characters of his poem.

Explaining about satire, Thrall, et al describe it as “a literary method which blends a crucial angle with humour and wit to the top that human establishments or humanity could also be improved.”. Chaucer’s try in illustrating the characters of knight or prioress or monk within the prologue supplies others the prospect of laughing at them with the aim of their correction. The Rape of The Lock displays Pope’s method of humiliating the follies of his characters i.e. the theft of lock of heroin Blenda after which battle between two noble households, could be very considerate effort for his or her enchancment. Extra humour is added by evaluating it to the world of the classical gods.

Conferring satire, it’s talked about in Encyclopaedia Britannica that the satire is a verbal caricature that reveals a intentionally distorted picture of an individual, establishment or a society. Milton’s portrayal of heaven and hell with the associated characters is admittedly exaggerated for immense results. Dryden’s most vital satirical poem, Absalom and Achitophel, in regards to the royal court docket of the monarch, Charles II and the political intrigues surrounding his illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth depicts distorted picture of monarchy.

Satire is a bitter type of criticism in the way in which that it has a particular ethical objective. The satirist straight hits the fouls and corruptions of his topic. He deliberately separates our sympathies from these whom he describes and ends by discovering anger and hatred overpower his sense of the ridiculing.

Examples of Satire within the Prologue

One of many corrupt pilgrims is the Monk. He’s keen on searching, he retains a lot of positive horses in his steady, he finds the principles of monastic self-discipline to be previous and subsequently outdated thus he disregards the principles that govern monasteries. Chaucer is referencing the ebook of guidelines when he states:

” However thilke textual content heeld he nat value an oystre;

And I seyde his opinioun was good. “

The poet actually would not agree with the Monk’s opinion that the principles are outdated. He’s utilizing sarcasm to make his level that the Monk chooses to not observe the principles as a result of they hamper his way of life of searching, proudly owning possessions, and consuming positive meals.

Chaucer likewise makes use of the Pardoner to satirize the hypocrisy of the Church’s promoting of pleasures for the forgiveness of sins, a follow by which giving a sure sum of money to the Church may wipe out sins even sins an individual has not but dedicated. The Pardoner at all times begins his “preche” by telling worshippers that the love of cash is the basis of all evil and the preche he utters to be able to get the cash he desires from them.

“For wel he wiste, whan that tune was songe,

He moste preche, and wel affile his tonge

To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude;

Due to this fact he tune the murierly and loude.”

One other member of the Church Chaucer satirizes is the Friar. Friars weren’t allowed to ship judgment for revenue, so that is one other approach he’s a corrupt member of the Church. It reveals that Friar permits sinners to pay him for forgiveness when they’re deeply depressed for his or her sins. This sort of behaviour represents friar as a beggar as Chaucer states about him:

” He was the beste beggere in his hous; “

This assertion has double which means. The Friar is a profitable beggar as a result of he makes such dwelling begging from the rich individuals in his district. As a substitute of serving to the poor, he makes use of this revenue for himself. On this approach he’s additionally a “positive” beggar because it helps him to personal costly garments and luxuries.

Chaucer exaggeratingly satirizes the Prioress’s sentimentality and pretensions of being from the next class. The awkward factor that she does for it’s that she speaks French in English method as Chaucer states;

“And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,

After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,

For Frenssh of Parys was to rent unknowe.”

Her excessive gentleness is out of real sensibility as she pretends to be very tender and delicate based on the next verses:

“She was so charitable and so pitous

She wolde wepe if that she saugh a mous

Kaught in a trappe, if it had been deed or bledde.

Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde”

However the story advised by her is kind of reverse to this persona depiction by which a Jew cuts the throat of a Christian boy and throws him right into a cesspool. One can think about how harsh and merciless this story is.

Definitions of Irony

Whereas explaining irony, the well-known thinker of nineteenth century, James Robert Boyd describes “The expression of sturdy reproof or censure, below the looks of reward.” It’s fairly true and is most blatant after we come throughout verbal ironies. For example in Satisfaction and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Mr. Darcy says of Elizabeth Bennet that she is just not “good-looking sufficient to tempt me” however falls in love along with her.

Thrall, et al describe irony as “a determine of speech by which the precise intent is expressed in phrases which carry the other which means” comparable to if any individual has stepped out in a flooding state of affairs and is saying, “What a pleasant climate now we have!” Othello is a superb instance of it when Othello resolves to homicide his loving and harmless spouse due to the key sinful scheme of Iago.

An American critic, W. Ginsberg has outlined irony as “the determine that joins negation and plentitude collectively” Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the viewers is aware of that Juliet is imitating to be useless however Romeo doesn’t know and thinks she is admittedly useless.

Irony is a technique of humorous or sarcastic expression by which the meant which means of the phrases used is the direct reverse of their regular sense. It’s also the state of ignorance in argument. It speaks a gross exaggeration or a falsehood, realizing it to be exaggerated or false, however asserting it as severe reality. Listening to it, clever males suppose, “That can not be true. He can not presumably imply that.” They realise that the speaker means the reverse of what he says.

Examples of Irony within the Prologue

Although a religious Christian, Chaucer nonetheless subscribed to a widely-held conviction within the Center Ages that the Church was hopelessly worldly, hypocritical, and corrupt. Irony in The Canterbury Tales is just not merely used for comedian impact; it has a transparent ethical objective too.

Regardless of being at religiously excessive and honourable rank, the monk doesn’t want to drive himself made by learning an excessive amount of. The worldliness of his thoughts set is clearly uncovered by ironic means by means of these strains:

“What sholde he studie and make hymselven wooden,

Upon a ebook in cloystre alwey to poure,

Or swynken along with his handes and labóure,

As Austyn bit? How shal the world be served?”

Furthermore he’s additionally objecting the holy scriptures by calling it previous and strict that’s once more very ironic when thought-about by way of religion and perception:

“The reule of seint Maure or of seint Beneit,

By-cause that it was previous and som-del streit,”

When monk is outlined as:

“A manly man, to been an abbot ready”

At a superficial stage that is excessive reward however as ironist Chaucer could be very gently suggesting right here that worldliness is the required eligibility for turning into an abbot. The monk can also be proved luxurious by describing him as hunter and by proudly owning greyhounds. His lavish costume can also be defined in following verses:

“I seigh his sleves y-púrfiled on the hond

With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;

And for to festne his hood below his chyn

He hadde of gold y-wroght a curious pyn;”

As well as, the monk is responsible of the cardinal sin of gluttony as Chaucer writes that he enjoys:

“A fats swan liked he better of any roost.”

Irony is employed within the portrait of the Friar, too. Listed here are essentially the most ironical strains:

“And over-al, ther as revenue sholde come up,

Curteis he was and lowely of servyse.

Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous.”

These verses are very boldly telling that he’s essentially the most “Virtuous” about his revenue and achieve and being vigilant about private profit is the usual of being virtuous.

Moreover friar’s being conversant in all obtainable sources to get one thing from or each good host is sarcastically used to show him a worthy man.

“He knew the tavernes wel in each toun,

And everich hostiler and tappestere

Wager than a lazar or a beggestere;

For unto swich a worthy man as he”

Chaucer’s irony all through his tales is enclosed in mocking tone. As these poems had been written from the angle of one of many vacationers, sharing what they heard and stated, are largely within the type of verbal irony. Largely it’s discovered within the type of description of the characters by themselves and exaggerating their personalities.

Definitions of Humour

In accordance with Encyclopaedia Britannica humour is the one type of communication by which a stimulus on a excessive stage of complexity, produces a stereotyped, predictable response on the physiological reflex stage. It’s properly noticed within the type of clowns in Elizabethan dramas like Twelfth Night time or Henry IV.

It’s talked about in The New Caxton Encyclopedia that based on Greek philosophy, humour is short-term imbalance [in the four basic liquids of a person’s body] would produce a corresponding change of temper… particularly in the event that they had been fanciful, or odd or foolish. If we give attention to the aim and impacts of utilizing humour it appears fairly true because it modifications the temper of the reader/viewers immediately and brings him/her in a completely completely different sphere.

Feibleman explains it, “Humour… means a expertise for with the ability to put oneself at will right into a sure mind set by which every little thing is estimated on strains that go fairly off the overwhelmed monitor (a topsy-turvy view of issues) and but on-line that observe sure ideas… “

Humour is the involved approval of the comedian, the school which allows us to like whereas we snicker. It’s the humour which allows us to see the particular person’s viewpoint, to differentiate between crimes and unhealthy behaviour. Above all, it’s humour which factors out these enduring peculiarities, these little shortcomings and innocent weaknesses which give a personality a heat place in our affections. This can be a very sturdy system that’s most powerfully utilized in completely different genres. It has been a obligatory a part of tragedies. There is no such thing as a sting in humour, no consciousness superiority. Quite the opposite, it accommodates a component of tenderness.

Examples of Humour within the Prologue

Humor is an important a part of Chaucer’s verse and the backbone of “The Prologue and The Canterbury Tales”. All of the characters in The Prologue have been cleverly portrayed. Humor, infact, makes Chaucer’s characterization completely different. As humorist he’s quick to see the attention-grabbing aspect of the issues as he has the power to snicker quietly and makes different giggle at what’s ridiculous or loopy or incoherent. Whereas depicting the image of Friar he says:

His eyen twynkled in his heed aryght

As doon the sterres within the frosty nyght.

When portraying the Monk, Chaucer says:

His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,

Concerning the Oxford Clerk Chaucer says:

However al be that he was a philosophere,

But hadde he however litel gold in cofre.

Not least among the many demonstration of Chaucer’s humour is the standard of exaggeration. The merry Friar along with his twinkling eyes is the most effective beggar in his friary; the Franklin has not his equal; in all of the world there was none just like the Physician of Physic; the Shipman had no peer from ‘Hulle to Cartage’; and in cloth-making the Spouse of Tub excelled even the matchless weavers of Ypres and Ghent.

Chaucer even doesn’t additional himself and says:

“My wit is brief, ye might properly understonde”

His humor has refined and complicated touches and it would not insult anybody. For example, when he lets us know that Prioress is so genial and charming in her conduct that she takes paints to repeat the habits of the court docket we won’t know whether or not he’s lauding her or laughing at her heat:

And full nice and amiable of port;

And peyned rent to counterfete cheere

Of court docket, and been es’attich of manere,

Anyway his humor is of the best type. It’s common and considerate on the grounds that he’s a person of charming temperament. He realizes that every particular person has one kind of imperfection or others. He pinpoints the deformity in a lightweight approach with a perspective to remedy them, not for corrupting the exploited particular person. His disposition is bound.


To conclude, Chaucer is without doubt one of the best property of his poetic artwork and we discover that highlighting the follies is essentially the most outstanding ingredient in Chaucer’s characterization of the pilgrims in “The Prologue”. This lends a most distinctive high quality to his character-sketches.

Thus Chaucer’s satire, both by means of irony or by means of humour, is just not aimed in opposition to modern morals, however in opposition to the comedian self-ignorance which supplies man two identities, the particular person he’s, and the extra notable and mysterious particular person he imagines himself to be. He acts as a medieval satirist whose methodology was to have a villain describe his personal methods. Two of those Prologues are the Pardoner’s and the Spouse of Tub’s. The previous, like lago and Richard III in Shakespeare, expresses himself out and out telling the pilgrims about his sensuality, greed, hypocrisy and deceitfulness. The theme of the Spouse of Tub’s prologue is tribulation in marriage, significantly the distress she has precipitated her 5 husbands.


  1. Legouis, E., and Cazamian, L., (1964), Legouis and Cazamian’s Historical past of English Literature, J.M.

Dent & Sons Restricted: England.

  1. Thrall, W. F., Hibbard, A., and Holman, C. H. eds.,(1960), A Handbook to Literature. Odyssey Press:

New York.

  1. Boyd, J.R., (1845), Components of Rhetoric and Literary Criticism, with copious sensible workout routines and

examples. For The Use of Frequent Faculties and Academies. Together with additionally A Succinct Historical past of the English language, and of British and American Literature from the Earliest to the Current Occasions. Harper: New York.

  1. Feibleman, J.Ok., (1962), In reward of comedy, a research in its idea and follow, Russell & Russell: New


  1. Encyclopaedia Britannica: Macropaedia Information in depth, (1975), Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.:


  1. The New Caxton Encyclopedia, (1975), The Caxton Publishing Firm Restricted London: England.
  2. Ginsberg, W., (2002), Chaucer’s Italian Custom, Ann Arbor: College of Michigan Press.




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