Are The Characters In The Canterbury Tales

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Are The Characters In The Canterbury Tales Stereot Essay, Research Paper Are the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales stereotypes, or fully developed characters?Discuss with reference to at least two tales. Though the characters in the Canterbury Tales are described vividly and often comically, it is notnecessarily true that these characters are therefore stereotypes of The Middle ages. The intricate visualdescriptions and the tales the characters tell help to direct the reader in finding a more accurate andrealistic picture of the pilgrims, bringing into question the theory that Chaucer was just collatingstereotypes from his time. The fact that there is one representative for each of the chief classes (under the higher nobility)would suggest that this work is an attempt to

provide a catalogue of characters from the middle ages,and it can be assumed from this that this denotes a collection of stereotypes, although this is notnecessarily true. The format of The Canterbury Tales suggests a simplistic approach, a prologue andepilogue and in between a collection of tales, The Miler’s Tale, The Clerk’s Tale and so on[1]. Thissimplicity in structure may also suggest a simplicity in content and thus, convincing and challengingcharacters are unlikely to be expected in a work of seemingly simple design. But, when looked at inmore detail, the tales are found to hold many details that contradict the bland stereotype expected, andwhen the structure of the work is looked at in its context of 14th century literature, the CanterburyTales is found to be a work

pioneering the form of the epic poem. The style in which Chaucer writesmay also initially seem to suggest that his characters are under-developed stereotypes, he uses thelanguage of his time vividly, although this does not therefore mean that his characters are twodimensional, almost ‘cartoon’ characters. J.R. Hulbert in his essay Chaucer’s Pilgrims explains, “Inmany instances there are exuberant lines which sharpen the effect desired.” The Canterbury Talesmay, at first seem to be obtuse and unfocused through the use of lucid imagery and language,although this language, when studied gives a more detailed and more deeply layered portrayal of thepilgrims as well as giving them colourful characteristics. Chaucer’s description of the knight is a good example of his

subversion of the classic Arthurianimage that existed in popular literature of the time[2]. In the General Prologue, Chaucer relays hisdescription of the knight: ” A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man, That fro the time that he first bigan To riden out, he loved chivalrye, Trouthe, and honour, freedom and curteisye.” This excerpt, the beginning of the description of the knight holds true to the classic representationof the knight of valour and honour, but Chaucer goes on to pervert and pollute the fairytale image thathe has created:” And of his port as meeke as is a maide” and,” His hors were goode, but he was nat gay. Of fustian he wered a gopoun, Al bismothered with his haubergeoun.” In these few lines, Chaucer has destroyed the traditional stereotype of the

knight and created a newand almost comical figure. Our knight is not one ‘in shining armour’, but rather a ‘knight in a rustedchain-mail’. The knight does not even have a hyper-masculine representation here either. Chaucerfeminises the knight comparing him to a maid. At the end of the description of the knight in thegeneral prologue the only part of the knight that lives up to the readers expectations is his horse,which apparently was in good condition. Although we have only been given a visual representation ofthe knight, the reader can gather many things from this description, perhaps the knight is effeminateor weak, and he shys away from battle, getting so little battlefield ‘action’ that his chainmail has begunto rust. It is a device used by Chaucer to convey the