Prologue to Canterbury Tales – (Short Ques & Ans)

Short Questions and Answers

Q.1. Write a short note on the age of Chaucer.

Ans. The age of Chaucer roughly covers the whole of the fourteenth century. Chaucer’s deep insight, acute understanding and sympathetic outlook enabled him to represent the very spirit of his age. He stood serene amidst the tumult and flurry of social contrasts and political changes. He remained detached and we get a dispassionate account of the men and manners of his age from this morning star of English poetry.

The age of Chaucer was remarkable for many significant political, religious. Social and literary activities. The old feudalism had outlived its utility and its valour and splendour were gradually disappearing. The rich of the church were crumbling. There was an unusual rise of national consciousness. Everything was in the melting pot.

During the years 1340-1356 England was at war with Scotland and France. The hundred years war brought great victories in the battles of Crecy and Poitiers in 1346 and 1356 respectively. The role of the English yeomen in these victories added to their prestige. This marked the beginning of the growth of power of the middle class and downfall of feudalism. The national life got purified.

Q.2. Write a note on the life of Chaucer.

Ans. Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London. He was the son of John Chaucer. Chaucer seems to have received ample education as we see from his acquaintance with all branches of learning of his time. But there is no evidence that he had been at either of the great universities. From 1357 to 1369 he had been rendering military services and was made one of the king’s esquires.

In 1370 he was sent to Genoa to settle a commercial treaty on which he might have met Petrarch. In 1374 he got from the Corporation of London on lease for life a house at Aldgate. Soon after he was appointed Comptroller of Customs and Subsidy of Wool, skins and leather in the port of London. He was sent on a mission to Flanders to make peace with the French king. On the accession of Richard II. He was sent to France to arrange the marriage of the king with the French Princess Mary.

In 1373 he began his Canterbury Tales. In 1380 he was elected Knight of the Shire for Kent. Later on he was dismissed from his employment leaving him no income beyond his pension. After sometime he was appointed clerk of the King’s work He died on October 25, 1400.

Q.3. Write a short note on Chaucer’s humour.

Ans. Humour is an extreme sensitiveness to the true proportion of things. The kind of humour that Chaucer and Shakespeare reveal is based on insight and sympathy, Chaucer had a deep Insight and acute understanding and sympathetic outlook. Humour, fun, wit, satire and irony are all found in Chaucer. His natural bent is towards humour. He had no intention to teach or to ridicule. He was critical but never didactic. Among writers of genius, the one who strikes us soonest as a friend is Chaucer. He comes to us with frankness and laughter as a friend. His satire is half- hearted and free from bitterness, His sly comments and parenthesis show his great wit. He is the master of the art of half concealing and half revealing. A roguish playful irony is one of his commonest weapons. Good humour is always in his hand.

Chaucer is the first English humourist. He treats his fellowmen with a liberal and indulgent attitude. He laughs as he lashes. The Canterbury Tales have enough of this humorous attitude.

Q.4. What is Chaucer’s attitude to women?

Ans. Several of Canterbury Tales deal with the relation between man and woman and man’s attitude to woman. These begin with the wife of Bath’s Tale and end with the Franklin’s Tale. Some of them show a kindly attitude to women where others make a bitter attack on them. The conventional attitude was one of the distrust and hatred. The laymen were constantly reminded that a woman was the cause of fall of Adorn.

The satire against women contained in these tales, expresses the conventional attitude to women. Some critics hold that this satire is tinged with Chaucer’s own unhappy marriage. But in these tales Chaucer makes his characters express their own. views while he stands aloof. The last tale of the Franklin gives a balanced’ iew making a strong plea for mutual forbearance and perfect love between husband and wife.

William Blake wrote. “The characters of women Chaucer has divided into two classes, the lady Prioress and the wife of Bath. Chaucer’s aim was to delineate what he saw in the society but his view towards women is sympathetic and full of reverence.

Q.5. Discuss Chaucer’s realism.

Ans. Chaucer is the first creator of human characters in English literature. His sanity of genius and masterly common sense, combined with his sense of reality and profound knowledge of human nature imparted a realistic trend to work. Chaucer is indeed a master of narrative art and the master of realistic art. The men and women. he depicted in the Prologue are as real today as they were in Chaucer’s days. They are made of the genuine stuff. They have the very essence of humanity. We meet real men and women of the middle ages in Chaucer’s Prologue and not merely contemporary social historical sketches.

This is the true creative art and Chaucer owns this gift and it goes to the core of reality. This we should describe as a creative realism in the true sense. Dryden rightly says. “Here is God’s plenty.” Blake’s comment settles the point once for all. “Of Chaucer’s characters….some of the names or titles are altered by time but the characters themselves ever remain unaltered and consequently they are physiognomies or lineaments or universal human life beyond which nature never steps.” Chaucer’s keen powers of observation seized upon the essential attributes of human nature and then the poet’s pen turned them to shapes and gave to airy nothing a local habitation and name. Hence it is a fact that Chaucer is indeed a master of the realistic art.

Q.6. Write a note on the idea of pilgrimage.

Ans. The Canterbury Tales have been woven in the framework of a pilgrimage. There has been much speculation as to what suggested to Chaucer the idea of Pilgrimage. He may have been describing an actual experience or more than one. There is reason to believe that he resorted to any book for knowledge of the pilgrimage as an institution in the general device of a frame story or series of tales within an enclosing narrative. It is believed that he imitated Decameron of Boccaccio. However, the idea of tales within a tale was so popular and familiar that no particular model need to be sought.

The Persian tales entitled the Thousand and One Nights were so popular. Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Gower’s Confessio Amantis and Chaucer’s own legend of Good women were also already there. But Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales have a device which was never used by any author before. The device of the pilgrimage is one of the happiest ever employed in a collection of stories. It afforded Chaucer an opportunity to bring together a representative group of various classes of society. United by a common religious purpose.

Q.7. Ans Write a note on the pilgrims of the Canterbury Tales.

Ans. The Prologue graphically describes all the thirty-two pilgrims including the innkeeper and Chaucer himself. The Prologue suggests that Chaucer reached one spring evening the Tobard Inn in Southwark. This was the place of departure and arrival of the pilgrims. As Chaucer alighted at the Inn. He found a group of twenty main pilgrims ready to set out in the pilgrimage Chaucer himself and the innkeeper joined the company. Host of the laboured Inn proposes that on their journey on horse each of them would tell two tales from this side and two more on their return journey. All the Pilgrims, it was agreed would submit to the judgement of the host as to which of them tells the best story. Lots are drawn to decide who shall tell the first tale. The lot falls to the knight.

But this company of pilgrims never reached Canterbury and only twenty three of the pilgrims get their turn to tell their tales. Some tales are left incomplete The tales present a cross section of contemporary social life The purpose in writing Prologue was Chaucer’s desire to represent 14th century social life realistically and graphically. Each pilgrim is the representative of his class.

 Q.8. Write a note on word pictures or Canterbury Tales.

Ans. Chaucer adopts the method of an artist and a portrait painter in the portrayal of his characters. He looks at his characters objectively with intellect. Detachment and penetration. He describes his characters as if his eyes were wandering over them, noticing a bright detail here and there. This very impression of casualness, this economy, significance of and variety of every detail are examples of that art which conceals art His method in painting is primitive, such as no artist would adopt today Like the primitive artist, he is a little clumsy still in contours, is found of bright colours and presents details which make us smile for a time. Details in portrait follow haphazardly No definite pattern of description is followed. Every character emerges step by step succeeds in vivid presentation of his characters because of his unerring observation. He has the seeing eyes, the retentive memory, the judgement to select and the capacity to expound. His keen observation of minutest details of his characters enables him to present his characters in full.

Q.9. Write a note on Friar.

Ans. There was also a wanton and merry Friar He was one of the greatest flatterers. He has performed the marriages of many young women at his cost. He was well acquainted with rich landlords his parish. He also knew the esteemed women of the parish for he had more authority to confessions in a very pleasant manner and his absolution was secret. He was of the view that gift to a poor order of friars was a sufficient proof of repentance in a sinner. If a man gave money, he knew that he was repentant. Weeping and praying was of no avail.

His bag was full of pins, knives which he gave to beautiful women. He sang in a sweet voice and could play upon the fiddle excellently. His neck was as white as lily but he was as strong as wrestler. He dressed himself not as a poor Friar but like. Master or a Pope. His habit was to lisp a little so that his English might sound sweet and when he recited a song his eyes twinkled in his head. This Friar was known as Herbert.

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Q.10. Write a note on the Parson.

Ans. There was also a good man of religion, the poor Parson. He was rich in holy thought and work. He took pleasure is teaching his parishioners. He had shown himself humane, hardworking and patient in misfortunes. He used to help his poor parishioners out of his Church income under all conditions. He used to visit the vast area of his Parish. He set such a noble example to his parishioners that he was ever first to act and then to teach. In this he followed the teaching of Bible and he added. From his side that if gold rusts, what will then iron do. In other words if a priest goes corrupt, it is natural for a layman to become so.

Therefore instead of running to London or to St. Paul’s, he stayed in his Parish. And looked to the welfare of his people. He always inspired his people Godward but if any person was obstinate. No matter whether he were high or low in status, he would rebuke him sharply for the time being.

Q.11. Write a short note on Summoner.

Ans. There was a Summoner who had a fiery red face covered with red pimples. He was hot and wanton like sparrow. Children were afraid of his appearance. No ointment or medicine could cure his disease. He loved garlic, onions and also leeks with strong red wine. When drunk he would shout like a mad person and in that condition, he spoke a few words of Latin. For a quart of wine, he would gladly lend his mistress to his friend for twelve months. He believed that a person could commit any sin if had enough money. He had the young people of his diocese within his power by mere threat his way. He knew their secret, wishes and therefore acted as their adviser.

Q.12. Consider Chaucer’s contribution to the growth and development of English language and versification.

Ans. Chaucer’s chief contribution to the development of English language is that English which was hitherto a language of dialects, was aided by him to be ultimately, made the language of England. Chaucer adopted the East Midland dialect and gave it a new for m and shape till it became the proper and acceptable medium of speech. He imparted smoothness and suppleness to the dialect which it had not known since the Norman times. He is the poet who received inspiration from the developed language of France but clung to his native tongue. In fact he found it easier to adopt the French verse forms to English use. He did for English what Dante had done for Italian. It is on account of his unique contribution to the making of English as a proper medium of poetry. Spencer called him the well of English undefiled. Stew called him the first illumine of English language. Some critics have criticized Chaucer that he was a mingles of English with French and he reputed English rather than refined it, but such criticism simply shows ignorance on the part of critics. The truth is that Chaucer’s language simply comprises poetical vocabulary of the society in which he lived and moved.

Townsbury rightly speaks of Chaucer’s contribution. “No really national language could exist until a literature had been created which would be admired and studied by all who could read and taken as a model by all who could write. It was only a genius that could lift up one of these dialects into a pre-eminence over the rest, or could ever give to the scattered forces existing in any one of them. the unity and vigour of life. This was the work that Chaucer did.”



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