The Canterbury Tales

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by lscholtz
Last updated 7 years ago

Language Arts

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The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer generally writes with complex and rich details, a style far from simplistic. His stories are full of resonances, nuances, verbal disruptions and surprises, often expressing multiple attitudes in a single passage. Because he wants the readers to become part of the story’s world and become fully engaged with the characters, Chaucer uses personification, imagery, as well as variations in sentence length. By using so much descriptive language, Chaucer emphasizes his poetic style, but through the clear irony and hypocrisy, it’s evident that Chaucer also incorporates a narrative tone as well. Chaucer creates vivid characters and in “The Pardoner’s Tale,” he focused on the corrupt and greedy Pardoner, a greasy, long-haired hypocrite. In the prologue to the “Pardoner’s Tale,” the Pardoner immediately shares his consistent theme, “Greed is the root of all evil.” However, he quickly admits after that he, in fact, is guilty of fraud, avarice, and gluttony, the three things he strongly preaches against. Ridiculously, once he finished his powerful disapproval of swearing, he begins his tale by doing exactly that – “Now, for the love of Crist, that for us dyde . . . now wol I telle forth my tale.” This clear act of shameless hypocrisy is characteristic of the Pardoner, and an example of Chaucer’s usual wry humor.

Andrew Cuyekeng, Karen Hsueh, Brandon Kim, Lexie Scholtz, Sarah Stukan, Elise Takahama

The Pardoner's Tale: Style

The Pardoner's Tale: Voice

Chaucer takes on the voice of the Pardoner himself in The Pardoner’s Tale, developing a character that is both greedy and hypocritical. The Pardoner is aware of the consequence of sin and yet willingly performs actions that lead him down a path of a moral corruption. For instance in the prologue to his tale, he basically confesses to fraud as he convinces people on the basis of his reputation as a member of the Church that they will be saved by his fake relics, and yet by the end of his tale he goes ahead and attempts to persuade his fellow travelers to fall for his con. Therefore, because Pardoner is unapologetic about his criminal lifestyle, he is forced to justify his actions to himself, and thus alludes to the Bible in an attempt to appear candid and authoritative. As a result, his tone shifts from guilty and perhaps even self-condemning in the prologue as he attempts to add credibility to his reputation by renouncing the error of his ways, to a deceiving and persuasive tone throughout his tale as he reverts back to his salesman-like personality.


The Wife of Bath's Tale


Chaucer consistently uses alliteration throughout the Wife of Bath’s prologue. This allows the Wife of Bath to come across as more formal and eloquent, which proves to be ironic as readers learn that she is the opposite. Her attempt to come across as more scholarly reflects her dominant and headstrong character. Throughout the Prologue, the Wife cites textual references from the Bible to support her story, but these references are obviously incorrect to the readers. Chaucer does this in order to mock the church clergy whom Chaucer believed to be misquoting the Scripture in sermons and to justify their actions.

The Canterbury Tales

In the Wife of Bath’s Tale, Chaucer’s voice in portraying the Wife shows that she is coarse and unruly. While her story is told in 3rd person, she continuously speaks in first just to insert her own opinion on the matter that she is speaking of, such as when she’s talking about what women desire the most. She uses the word “we” to show that since she is a woman, she has experience with how women feel. Throughout The Wife of Bath’s Tale, the Wife always interrupts the flow of the story to say something of her own opinion, emphasizing not only the story itself but also showing the personality of the Wife and Chaucer.


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