Analysis Of Canterbury Tales: Review Of Articles Concerned

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The utilization of a journey as the encircling gadget empowered Chaucer to unite individuals from numerous different backgrounds: knight, prioress, priest; vendor, man of law, franklin, insightful agent; mill operator, reeve, pardoner; spouse of Bath and numerous others. The assortment of social sorts, just as the gadget of the narrating challenge itself, permitted introduction of an exceptionally differed gathering of artistic kinds: religious legend, dignified sentiment, scandalous fabliau, holy person's life, figurative story, mammoth tale, medieval lesson, catalytic record, and, now and again, blends of these classes. The tales and connections together offer complex portrayals of the travelers, while, in the meantime, the stories present astounding instances of short accounts in stanza, in addition to two articles in writing. The journey, which in medieval practice consolidated an in a general sense religious reason with the mainstream advantage of a spring get-away, made conceivable broadened thought of the connection between the joys and indecencies of this world and the otherworldly goals for the following.

In her article Charles A. Owen, Jr. Mention that:

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“The Canterbury Tales presents no problem more stimulating than its development as a work of art. In the disjoined fragments that have come down to us we find considerable evidence of change in plan, but to fit the details of change to a chronology of growth, to follow the imagination of the poet and to recapture the dynamics of creation, has been a task too cautiously and too seldom attempted. The challenge remains, obtrudes itself to even the most casual reader and every student of Chaucer. To meet it with complete success requires an im possible omniscience. But some of the specific problems can be solved and a consistent outline for development of the whole work suggested”(449).

Mandel Jerome says that:

“ Surely no other period of English literature is as concerned with love and lovers as the medieval. Almost all of the Canterbury tales discuss love in its various medieval manifestations, almost all have lovers of one stripe or another. As Arthur W. Hoffman indicated, the very opening lines of the General Prologue point to love earthly and love celestial as defining the limits of love in terms of which both the story-telling pilgrims and their tales may be judged. But in addition to amor and amor dei, the Canterbury Tales offers other kinds of love in sufficient variety and quantity to have attracted scholars and critics for the past century and more. Norman Eliason has dis tinguished four kinds of love which scholars continue to debate in the Canterbury Tales: Christian love, philosophical love, allegorical love, and courtly love. Eliason identified a fifth kind, 'ordinary love,' which means precisely what you think it means. If, as Eliason claimed, 'what Chaucer says about any of these conventionalized kinds of love is essentially nothing more than what others had said before,' then what distinguishes Chaucer from the other medieval poets who have dealt with love before him is his aesthetic treatment, the use to which he puts those various kinds of love”(278).

“ This is not to say that Chaucer despised courtly love. On the contrary, Chaucer had treated courtly love with profound serious ness in the past. In Troilus and Criseyde the courtly love ethos is central to any understanding of the events and language of the poem and the behavior of the characters. Chaucer takes us carefully through the process of love and pain, fear and expectation, that characterizes the experience of courtly love both for Troilus and for Criseyde. At no point are the lovers denigrated for adhering to a code of conduct that had long since passed its usefulness. Rather, they are held up as models of right conduct who are betrayed by a political decision to trade Criseyde for Antenor, and they are ultimately destroyed by a fundamental aspect of Criseyde's character, the fact that she is 'slydynge of corage' (Troilus, V, 825). Whether or not Chaucer is pointing out the insufficiencies of courtly love when it comes up against the hard rocks of political expediency or the soft spots in human character, in Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer treats courtly love with a seriousness that is absent from the Canterbury Tales. In point of fact, there is no courtly love in the Canterbury Tales. There are only a few lovers exhibiting oddments of courtly behavior, and all but two or three of them are the moral equivalent of scullery maids and bottle boys, unable to excite even in their own kind the ennobling passion characteristic of the courtly love to which they aspire. At no point is courtly love central. At no point are we asked to consider courtly love seriously. At no point are we enjoined to look upon the behavior of lovers who invoke courtly love as anything other than dangerous and ineffective posturing (as in the case of the more noble lovers) or sham and pretense (in the case of the clerks and other commoners). Only rarely are we to understand that the language of courtly love springs from honest feeling. Though Chaucer ranks among the great poets of love in the English language, by the time he came to write the Canterbury Tales he no longer looked upon the language, tenets, or characteristics of courtly love as a viable way of expressing what occurs in the human heart”(Jerome 287-288).

Mandel Jerome tells:

“Rather, the voice I am concerned with is heard during those moments when Chaucer reveals an attitude not his own in words that are not his own and without the signals which indicate either direct or indirect discourse. Although we must understand that Chaucer, as poet-performer-pilgrim-narrator, says these words, as he says every-, thing in the Canterbury Tales, we must also understand that the narrator is actually imitating or mimicking or evoking the voice of someone else. He is reporting direct discourse in the third person, as though it were indirect discourse, but he presents it without the signal that identifies it as indirect discourse. These are, in fact, the words of the pilgrims themselves, but Chaucer has changed the pronouns from first to third person. In grammatical terms, the phenomenon may be described as perfectly imitative indirect dis course or as indirect quotation. It occurs only in the portraits of the Monk, the Friar, and the Parson. Chaucer reveals a summary judgment when he says of the Monk that he let the old things go and held after the new World(341).

On the aim of pilgrims Edmund Reiss says that:

“Whatever else the Canterbury Tales may be, it is clearly the account of a pilgrimage. This kind of journey is, in fact, the major device used by Chaucer to structure his narrative, but it is a device neglected by commenta tors. It has most often been viewed in connection with the frame story, as a means of creating an envelope for the tales to follow; and, notwithstanding such work as that by A. W. Hoffman and Ralph Baldwin about the function of pilgrimage in the General Prologue,' scholarly discussion has tended to go away from the pilgrimage itself and focus on the device of the frame and on analogous frame stories. It is not customary for Chaucerians to consider the many narratives using the pilgrimage, narratives that are even closer than frame stories to being the inspiration for the structure and themes found in Chaucer's greatest work. Along with acting as a framing device, the pilgrimage brings to the Canterbury Tales everything associated in the late Middle Ages with the religious concept of the pilgrimage and the literary expres sion of this idea. Chaucer could certainly have used other frame devices, but we cannot escape from the fact that he chose a pil grimage. And this choice resulted in a certain tone and atmosphere that probably would not have been present had the work been, say, the account of a group of people on their way to a festival, a king's coronation, or a hanging. It is hardly sufficient to say, as F. N. Robin son does, that ' The reason for Chaucer's choice of a pilgrimage as a setting for his stories is unknown.' This may be true, but if we accept the fact of the pilgrimage's existence, we may then begin to understand its function in and effect on this work”(296).

In that age narrating was crucial as we see in Ben Kimpel article:

“These are the only contributions to the portrait of the narrator during the description, and at most they show that he was a man interested in his fellow men, whose heart was in the right place and who preferred virtue to vice. We would have been likely to learn as much about any man who described a large number of his contemporaries, whether or not he appeared as a character in his own story. It is true that the narrator comments directly on his characters, but these one-line comments tell us very little about the narrator; they are little expressions of approval or praise, sincere or ironic. The middle ages did not have the same feeling about such comments as do the followers of Henry James, and it is unlikely that Chaucer was conscious of whether such brief remarks were his own comments or the narrator's. Whatever he may have been conscious of when portraying his narrator directly, as in the ' Sir Thopas ' links, it is not necessary to assume that in throwing in these remarks Chaucer was aware of any such distinction(81).

A different point by Carol Hoff:

“In the class conversation about the why and wherefore of pilgrimages and Chaucer's presentation of the English life of his time by means of the various types of his pilgrims, comparison'with the present day natu rally occurred. Trips to the battlefields of France, to Washington, and to the state fair were among the modern parallels suggested, but one boy who had visited Carlsbad Cavern argued so vehemently that the men and women meeting in the cameraderie of the tourist camps there were as representative of American life as were Chaucer's pilgrims at Tabard Inn that the class was convinced. Imagine my secret elation when at this point one of the girls voiced my carefully concealed plan, that the class write a prologue to a Carlsbad Cavern pilgrimage. Her suggestion meeting with general favor, we discussed the types to be represented and studied Chaucer's descriptions in an endeavor to discover how he made his people not only types but also individuals. Then each member of the class chose one type to picture for the class booklet, and one member wrote clever introductory and concluding links about vacation pilgrimages. Some of the especially vivid descriptions were those of the business man with his pathetic bewilderment in the face of the grandeur of nature and the futile leisure to enjoy it, his culture-seeking wife and daughters, the bootlegger combining business with pleasure, the showman viewing the cavern as one of the Master Showman's spectacular headline attractions, and the teacher in search of experiences for the vicarious enjoyment of her pupils. The result of the study was that the class as a whole enjoyed and appreciated Chaucer's tolerant knowledge and excellent craftsmanship and acquired, as well, a little deeper understanding of modern life(226).”

Tales should give meaningful message to people as we see in Michaela’s article:

“Always a means of concentrating on discourse as a generative transaction between speaker and listener, the frame narrative is most fully realized in the Canterbury Tales. Here, in a context that seeks to approximate living speech, the frame amply accommodates Chaucer's sense of dis course as a reciprocal process that evolves rather than one that reaches a conclusion. The fictive frame provides Chaucer with a whole gamut of narrative voices and audience responses and with the psychological and social mechanisms that bring those responses into play. His pilgrims sup ply the interruptions and competitions, the exposures and self-exposures, the sympathies and enmities that underlie communication and miscommunication. In short, they everywhere ex emplify the social dynamics that militate against simple resolution. As treated in the Canterbury Tales, discourse requires a listener as well as a speaker. It cannot be closed without that listener's active participation. The degree to which Chaucer varies the sense of closure, and thus the manner and placement of audience reception, may con tribute to masking a theme of substantial im portance. Indeed, on the evidence of a text variously and persuasively attentive to the en gagement between speaker and audience, the Canterbury Tales seems not so much a drama, or a 'drama of style' (Benson), as a drama of the reception of discourse. In the Canterbury Tales Chaucer creates much more than a group of listeners with whom the audience can identify; he presents a copia of the human motives-social, psychological, and po litical-that generate communication and mis understanding. His treatment of closure is only one feature of a poetic that is at bottom dialogic and social. The denial of structural closure that occurs again and again in the Canterbury Tales characterizes Chaucer's attitude toward discourse and, by extension, toward inquiry and knowl edge. In his epistemology nothing is ever complete. His world is marked, instead, by in teraction, dialectical relations, and open process. This view is suggested not so much by direct statement as by the geography of Chaucer's dis course, which denies stabilizing conclusions and seeks open interactions(1165).”

“All these traditions-dramatic, celestial journey, and Gothic-are Greek or Western in origin. The frame narrative, however, of which the Canterbury Tales is the culmination, incor porates a tradition that originated and developed in Arabia. To put the idea most simply, the structure of the Canterbury Tales can be most appropriately compared not with the cathedral but with the mosque. In this essay, I trace the development of the frame narrative, showing its Arabic roots and character, and suggest that the organizing principles and many of the features of the Canterbury Tales derive from this tradition(237).”

Texting is an important technis in that time. We see how crucial it is by 3 writers article:

“The textuality of a medieval literary work, in particular one 'written to be read, but read as if it were spoken,' 'a literary imitation of oral performance' (p. 221), merits the attention Leicester brings to it; but he underestimates the significance of his own concession for an age not entirely out of touch with oral culture. Our typographical imagi nations can scarcely grasp the relationship between text and oral performance for a time in which the latter was still the norm and the former precariously indeterminate. Much of the 'textuality' we perceive in the Canterbury Tales is an illusion of modern editions, though some of it, for example, the rubrication, is the work of medieval scribes. The stylistic and metrical features Leicester cites as evi dence for textuality would obtain equally for the printed copy of a Shakespearean play. Though the theatrical analogy is not an exact fit, the sense of performance permeates the 'textuality' of the Tales. To say that the only Chaucer we know is the one impersonated in the 'voices' of his text is all that we can usefully say about Shakespeare and perhaps even Milton and Wordsworth. In fact, that asser tion looks suspiciously like the New Critical dictum that 'ultimately all we have is the text.' Thus I find it possible to accept many of Leices ter's strictures against the bad habits of Chaucerians without having to embrace his theory of absence. We need assume no more of a presence than is commonly implied by the rhetorical definition of irony, namely, a locus for 'what is meant' that is different from 'what is said.' And perhaps the Chaucerian persona might be thought of as a reflex of extended irony, much as allegory is conventionally defined as extended metaphor. No doubt we will not always agree about the exact bounds of irony and we need to beware of reifying either the 'pilgrim' or the 'poet,' but we cannot entirely dispense with a presence unless we remove the 'im' from 'impersonation”(881).

About Chaucer style H.S.V Josh mentions:

“In pre-Chaucerian literature, then, we have well defined the type which Chaucer splendidly realized in the General Prologue. More over, we find there anticipations of his narrative adaptation of that type. The Roman de carite, which Professor Kittredge has shown that Chaucer knew, is, like the Canterbury Tales, a book of travel, with the differences that the poet visits the estates of the world instead of traveling in their company, and that his destination is not Canter bury or any other place on the map but the uncertain abode of Charity. She can be found neither among the lawyers at Bologna nor among the doctors at Salerno; the monks know nothing of her. And so after seeking Charity in vain among the men who fight and the men who pray, the poet turns to the 'peuple menu.' With this story one naturally associates not only such books as the Speculum stultorum and the Architrenius, but the Pilerinage of Deguilleville, with whose work Chaucer was acquainted. That in these uses of the travel or pilgrimage motif, adjusted more or less closely to the Etats du monde, we are concerned chiefly with allegory should not disturb us; because allegory and social satire go hand in hand and because mediaeval allegory is nearer akin to Chaucer's realism than is direct satire. When we seek prototypes for the vividly described Canterbury pilgrims we turn to the Romance of the Rose or Piers Plowman; the figures on the wall of the garden of love, Fals-Semblaunt, the Duenna, have much to teach the student of the Prologue. In the Middle Ages the literature of realism grows easily in the soil of symbolism. 'Every devout or undevout frequenter of the church in that time,' writes Professor Saintsbury, 'knew Accidia and Avarice, Anger and Pride as bodily rather than ghostly enemies, furnished with a regu lar uniform, appearing in recognized circumstances and companies, acting like human beings.' Moreover, the vividly seen, graphically represented Sins are closely associated with the several estates(47).”


  1. Jr, Charles A. Owen. “ The Development of the 'Canterbury Tales'.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. 57.3(1958): 449-476. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web.
  2. Mandel, Jerome. “Courtly Love in the Canterbury Tales.” The Chaucer Review. 19.4(1985): 277-289. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web.
  3. Mandel, Jerome. “Other Voices in the 'Canterbury Tales'.” Criticism. 19.4(1977): 338-349. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web
  4. Reiss, Edmund. “The Pilgrimage Narrative and the 'Canterbury Tales'.” Studies in Philology. 67.3(1970): 295-305. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web
  5. Kimpel, Ben. “The Narrator of the Canterbury Tales.” ELH. 20.2(1953): 77-86. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web
  6. Hoff, Carol. “'The Canterbury Tales' Again.” The English Journal. 22.3(1933): 226-227.
  7. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web
  8. Grudin, Michaela Paasche. “Discourse and the Problem of Closure in the Canterbury Tales.” PMLA. 107.5(1992): 1157-1167. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web
  9. Gittes, Katharine Slater. “The Canterbury Tales and the Arabic Frame Tradition.” PMLA. 98.2(1983): 237-251. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web
  10. Burlin, Robert B. , Leicester, H. Marshall and Jr. “'Voice' in the Canterbury Tales.” PMLA. 95.5(1980): 880-882. JSTOR. 11 May 2019. Web
  11. Jones, H. S. V. “The Plan of the 'Canterbury Tales'.” Modern Philology. 13.1(1915): 45-48. JSTOR. 11 May 2019.Web
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