By Jill Mann
This booklet is an try and observe the origins and value of the overall Prologue-to the Canterbury stories. The curiosity of such an inquiry is many-sided. at the one hand, it throws mild at the query of no matter if `life' or 'literature' was once Chaucer's version during this paintings, at the dating among Chaucer's twenty-odd pilgrims and the constitution of medieval society, and at the function in their `estate' in picking out the weather of which Chaucer composes their photographs. however, it makes feedback in regards to the ways that Chaucer convinces us of the distinctiveness of his pilgrims, concerning the nature of his irony, and the type of ethical criteria implicit within the Prologue. This booklet means that Chaucer is mockingly substituting for the normal ethical view of social constitution a imaginative and prescient of an international the place morality turns into as specialized to the person as his work-life.
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Extra resources for Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire: The Literature of Social Classes and the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
Chaucer's consistency in transferring estates features from factual to linguistic status encourages the belief that the distinction is no mere quibble, but is significant for both his establishment of the pilgrims as individuals, and his larger purpose in the Prologue. The consistency can be illustrated by his reduction of the 'oiseals volant' of Gower's 25 THE ANTI-CLERICAL TRADITION hunting monk to the level of a simile describing the Monk's greyhounds - 'swift as fowel in flight*. It is equally evident in Chaucer's description of the Monk's jingling harness: And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd as cleere And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle.
Already in the mid-fourteenth-century Belgian writer, Gilles li Muisis, we have an association between monks and fine horses, and in particular, the repeated mention of 'palefrois'. The topic arises in a context of the luxurious food and clothing of presentday monks: he asks, Sains Benois avoit-il dras les plus precieus, Palefrois sur lesquels gent fussent envieus? Avoit-il cescun jour des mais delicieus? . Ches abbes et ces moines rewardes cevauchant, Che samble qu'anemy les voisent encauchant.
For example, Chaucer presents the Monk as a holder of one monastic office 'kepere of the celle' (172) - and as apparently capable of a higher one still: A manly man, to been an abbot able. (167) A traditional type of comment on these lines might relate them to satire on the ambition to become an abbot and the pride and selfindulgence of the successful candidate. ' Si quid interrogant quidam claustralium, ridentes revocant illud in irritum, et soli retinent res quae sunt omnium, quas sibi reputant ut patrimonium.