Essay on the middle ages
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Explore the use Chaucer makes of parody by referring to at least two tales.
Chaucer’s book “The Canterbury Tales” presents a frame story written at the end of the 14th century that is set through a group of pilgrims participation in a story-telling contest that they make up to entertain each other while they travel to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Because of this, some of the tales become particularly attractive for they are written within a frame of parody which, as a style that mocks genre, is usually achieved by the deliberate exaggeration of some aspects of it for comic effect. In fact, as a branch of satire mimicry, its purpose may be corrective as well as derisive. (Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms) Chaucer, therefore, uses parody to highlight – satirize - some aspects of the medieval society that should be re-evaluated. He uses the tales and the behaviours of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of the English society at that time, therefore the tales turn satirical, elevated, ironic, earthy, bawdy, and comical. When analysing the Knight’s and the Miller’s Tale, one can realise how Chaucer mocks the courtly love convention, and other social codes of behaviours typical of the medieval time.
The Knight’s Tale, for example, uses the concept of a knight not only to parody the concept of the hero, but also to question the well-established courtly love convention. This concept refers to a set of ideas about love that was enormously influential on the literature and culture of the medieval times for it gave men the chance to feel freely; and women, the opportunity to be an important element in the story – not only decorative. However, when scrutinizing the tale, the readers can realise that all the aspects of a true in-love knight are exaggerated and conveyed through an absurd behaviour. The first element that shows this comical view of the knight can be found when Palamon and Arcite begin an argument over who saw Emily first, and therefore, who is truly in loved with her. The lines “For par amour I loved her first, you know. /What can you say? You know not, even now/ whether she is a women or goddess!” reveal a really childish behaviour of the knights, which makes the characters then turn irrational: they abandon themselves completely in order to dedicate their lives to a woman who is not even aware of their existence, and even more, they are willing to risk their bond of brotherhood, and their lives to win the love of this lady. This parody of the courtly love convention – in the eyes of the male – not only illustrates the mock of the knight that Chaucer is stating, but also satirizes all knighthood.
In addition, the way that Emily is described, portraits how Reverdie is taken to a point that overwhelms the reader “That Emily, far fairer to be seen/ than is the lily on its stalk of green, / ad fresher that is May with flowers new /...