Chaucer’s Art of Characterization

Ellena Arroyo

The writer is the reflection of his society, whatever he traces is the tongue of contemporary society. His work, The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is a great achievement holding various facets and proving him a poet and a narrator. The historians, without reading his work, can not write history. His art of characterization is very simple and eminent.

He is very fantastic in portraying his characters. He watches his characters minutely. He looks over the behaviours, manners dresses and all habits minutely. His work, prologue to the Canterbury tales is a good work, there in thirty characters are led for pilgrimage representing English society morally and socially. His work is fit for all ages.

All his thirty characters represent different professions as The Knight and the Squire represent warrior class ready to flow blood for country sake. Chaucer depicts that where there is dispute, there is knight to face and reconcile. Further it is added that there was a great keen for being the knight as holding and executing power. He performs a great work. The squire is representing good-humored and joyful disposition with the signs of success. The Man of Law, the Doctor, and the Oxford Clerk belong to the learned line of work.

The Merchant and the Shipman represent the higher commercial community while the Wife of Bath, an expert Cloth maker represents the traders and firm. Agriculture is represented by the Ploughman, the Miller and the Franklin. his way of describing the Monk is very humorous but polite. As he says that the monk has craze for hunting and taming dogs. His description of all characters shows his mild humour.

These characters represent various types of contemporary society. They possess different qualities and manners and move before us like real human being. His characters are perfectly lifelike. Some of them are so modern that they seem to be living today. The old Knight is an example of the chivalrous character which is found in every generation. The Merchant is very proud over grow of wealth, while the Man of Law like lawyers of all times is enhancing fees and buying land. We recognize in him the typical lawyer of our own day: it is the peculiarity by virtue of it he is called the poet of modern age.

There are characters like the Prioress, the Monk, the Franklin, the Reeve, the Summoner, the Pardoner, and the Wife of Bath whom we do not identify at first. But none of them is really extinct. They have changed their name and profession but their chief part is an element of humanity. That is why when we accompany the Pilgrims on their way we feel quite at home and have no feeling of being among aliens.

Chaucer’s art of characterization is superb. He looks at his characters positively and marks out each of the men and women minutely and distinguishably. His way of narration is very excellent pursuing the readers to be their companions. Chaucer conveys a strong sense of distinctiveness and depth of portraiture. He simply evinces their realities without any hard satire or humour.

Chaucer’s method of portraying characters is a scientific manner by differentiating them by means of their conspicuous characteristics. It was for the first time in European literature that a writer proved himself clearly cognizant of the relation between individuals and ideas. Moreover, Chaucer’s characters grow and develop in the course of the tale, like living human beings. They give their opinions on the stories that have been told and these comments reveal their central thoughts, their feelings and the objects of their interests.

Thus Chaucer is the master in the art of characterization.

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