Chancer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue

 Chancer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue

The age of Chaucer covers the period from 1340 to 1400. Chaucer is the true representative of his age as Pope is of the eighteenth century and Tennyson is of the Puritanical period. His workshop breathe the political, social, profitable and religious tendencies of his time. Chancer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue , The middle of the fourteenth century was the transitional period in which Chaucer was born. The rudiments of Renaissance were breeding.

“ He stands on the threshold of the new age, but still hedged in a backward gaping world.”

Chancer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue  The fourteenth century in England was the most important of the mediaeval centuries. It covered the period of the Black Death and the Peasant’s Rebellion, the Hundred Times War with France and the great profitable and social changes which we associate with the decay of villeinage. During its times, two lords were deposed and boggled, and dynasties began to rise and fall. The enmity to the church and the demand for the freedom of study, which was to crown in the Renaissance and the Reformation were beginning to be manifested in this pregnant century.

During the English Period, Chaucer appears to us as a great original minstrel. He'd learnt nearly to perfection the trades of description, narrativisation and characterization. Chaucer is known for his  fashion of versification like that of a fine handicraftsman and a supreme pen because of his humour and particular talk. This period includes his remarkable work, The Canterbury Tales. Chancer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue , In this lyric he truly represented the comedy of life in its all forms. The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales gives us the background of the conduct and movements of the pilgrims who make up the company of the members of the troop who shouldered this passage.

All these pilgrims represent the total of “ English society” of the fourteenth century. The pilgrims are persons of all species and classes of society; and in the incomparable description of their mores, dresses, person, nags etc, with which the minstrel has introduced them, we behold a vast and minute portrayal gallery of the social state of England in the fourteenth century.

His keen analysis of the tiniest detail of his characters, their dresses, aesthetics and mores enable him to present his characters naturalistic and not bare bloodless abstractions.

Chancer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue

His lyrical piece, The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is a real picture gallery in which thirty pictures are hanging on the wall with all of their details and tricks. Rather it's a grand procession with all the life and movement, the colour and sound. Indeed,

.His characters represent English society, innocently and socially, in the real and recognizable types.

  And still further representative of humanity in general. So, the characters in Chaucer’s “ The Prologue” are for all periods and for all lands.

Chaucer is the first great painter of character in English literature. In fact, coming to Shakespeare he's the topmost in this field. In The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales the thirty pictures traced by Chaucer give us an excellent idea of the society at that time. Except for kingliness and quality, on one hand and the stealers or out casts on the other, he has painted in brief virtually the whole English nation.


 The thirty pilgrims, including the host, belong to the most varied professions. The Knight and the Squire presents the quarrelsome element of the society. The learned and liberal vocations are signified by the Man of Law, the Doctor, the Oxford Clerk and the Poet himself. The Merchant and the Shipman stand for the advanced marketable community while the Woman of Bath, an expert Cloth maker represents the dealers and manufacturers. Agriculture is represented by the Ploughman, the Miller and the Franklin. The upper retainers like Manciple and the Reeve and the lower menial like Yeoman and the Cook represent the city and Country between them. The Monk from his friary, the Prioress from her cloister, her attendant preachers, the vill Parson, the roving Friar, the Pardoner and the Summoner sufficiently cover the casual orders of the religious order in those days.

To save the distinctions among these typical characters, Chaucer has indicated the differences in their clothes, manner of speech, habits and tendencies representing the common traits and the average characteristics of each profession. These lights, thus, aren't bare fantasies of the brain but real human begins.

 Chaucer’s public experience of life was as a government servant and diplomat: not a courtier but a king’s man. His friends were knights and London merchants. England passed through profound changes during his lifetime. In his childhood, England had great prestige, having beaten the Scots and the French in the victories of Grecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356). Chancer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue , In 1360 French ceded much territory to England. In 1349 Edward III had founded the Order of the Garter, the first Order of Western chivalry. But the Black Death of 1349 had killed a third of the people of England, and it returned in the 1360s.

The resultant labour shortage disrupted the feudal economy. Edward III’s costly war policy began to fail, and in old age the king became unpopular. Richard II came to the throne as a child in 1377 in a time of social unrest which in 1381 broke out in the Peasants’ Revolt, in which John of Gaunt’s palace was sacked and Archbishop Sudbury murdered in the street. There was also religious controversy: the Popes had been in captivity at Avignon since 1309, and in 1378 the Great Schism began, between rival claimants to the Papacy. The Oxford reformer, Wyclif, attacked Church abuses in the 1370s, and criticised Church dogma. Next to nothing of this gets into Chaucer’s work.

He shows us the greed of the new bourgeoisie and abuses in the Church, but his religious and social values seem those usual in his day. He was certainly discreet, as befits a diplomat and a royal servant. He flourished quietly at Richard II’s court, and Henry IV, John of Gaunt’s son, did not reject his father’s old follower when he took the throne from Richard in 1399. The history plays of Shakespeare show Richard, murdered in 1400, as the last medieval king.

Medieval society was vertically organised like a pyramid, with King and Pope at the heads of State and Church. Chancer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue, The social hierarchy was in theory quite clear, and its ranks had legal force. People of a lower rank could be punished forwearing the dress of a higher rank. But the old feudal system, where social standing was determined by the amount of land a man held from the king, was giving way to a more open and mercantile economic pattern, especially in London, where Chaucer came from the mechant class. He was not a man of the people, but his origins were equally remote from the nobility; there are no barons among his pilgrims. His career gave him a wide experience of English life, and especially the life of London, many of whose 30000 inhabitants he must have known. Medieval society, in spite or because of its vertical distinctions, was communal: each of Chaucer’s Pilgrims, however individual, is conceived of a typical of his craft or profession, and as having a rank and a role in society.


discuss any two portraits from the general prologue

chaucer art of characterization slideshare

discuss chaucer's narrative art with special reference to the canterbury tales

write a note on the art of characterization in chaucer's prologue to canterbury tales

comment on chaucer's art of characterization in the prologue pdf


PDF & Handwritten

WhatsApp - 8130208920


Previous Question

Next Question


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.