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Geoffrey Chaucer's Experiences In The Canterbury Tales

1061 words - 4 pages

In the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer describes the journeys and life lessons of thirty fictitious pilgrims. Scholars explain that only one of the thirty pilgrims was indeed Chaucer, but other characters in the Canterbury Tales represent the struggles of Chaucer as well. Although the pilgrims’ tales were pretend, they were based on actual events that Chaucer experienced throughout his lifetime. He represents his own insecurities and flaws throughout the array of the characters’ tales. Situation irony of the characters conceals Chaucer’s role while it entertains the audience. Overall, Chaucer actually writes about himself within at least three different character descriptions in the Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath Tale’s knight, the Oxford Cleric, and Franklin.
The foundation of the Wife of Bath’s tale about the knight is based on Chaucer’s lust and rape case. The Wife of Bath creates a story about a knight that raped an innocent peasant girl in a field. Similarity, Chaucer was known for the raptus of Cecilia Chaumpaigne in 1380. (Biographicon 2) There is a disagreement whether the law classified Chaucer’s raptus as rape or kidnapping because in the twelfth century, there was “confusion of the terminology dealing with rape and abduction” (Hornsby 116). Either way, Chaucer and the knight had forceful control over innocent women.
The Knight and Chaucer both rely on their high social classes in order to excuse themselves from their punishments. According to Madeline Hunter, “[t]he punishment appeared to be criminal oriented rather than either crime or victim oriented” during the Medieval Times. (Hunter 4). The social class of the criminal correlates with the punishment that he receives afterwards. Neither Chaucer nor the Knight were killed or imprisoned for their crimes because of their respectable social classes. According to the Biographicon, Chaucer’s “…[raptus case] did not leave a stain on Chaucer’s reputation (2). Therefore, Chaucer did not have to suffer legally after his rape case because Chaucer was well known. Also, the knight did not receive cruel treatment after his case. For example, the queen in the Canterbury Tales excused the knight from his crime because he told her one thing - - the sole thing women look for in a relationship. The knight’s honorable reputation saves him from punishment, which is similar to Chaucer’s case. Despite the fact that Chaucer was never a knight, the Wife of Bath’s tale about the knight emulated Chaucer’s past criminal background.
Chaucer also shares the level of intellect with the Oxford Cleric in the Canterbury Tales. Fisher praises how Chaucer writes “without transition but perfectly coherently” (Fisher 132). Chaucer intelligent organization in his writing allows his to pieces to be adored for centuries. The character that Chaucer created, Oxford Cleric, also demonstrates Chaucer’s concise writing style. Oxford Cleric is known for his “short, to the point… theme” in the Canterbury Tales...

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