Canterbury Tales Essay: Geoffrey Chaucer's Attention To Detail

693 words - 3 pages

Corine CucoloEnglish 10HSchellato16 October 2014Geoffrey Chaucer's Attention to Detail In The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales the reader gains insight into each character because of Chaucer's use of ornate descriptions for each and every one. As quoted by H.S. Bennett, "No detail was too small for him to observe, and from it he could frequently draw… conclusions which would have escaped many." Specifically, the Merchant, the Clerk, and the Wife of Bath exemplify "Chaucer's poetic sensibility" in The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.The characteristics of the Merchant support Bennett's idea that Chaucer left out no details. For instance Chaucer writes, "A Merchant was there with a forked beard,/ In motelee, and high on horse he sat,/ Upon his head a Flemish hat" (pg 200 lns 272-274). By describing that the Merchant sits high on his horse, it implies that he thinks highly of himself and also that he is a wealthy man. For a man to sit high on a horse he needs to be proper which lets the reader know that the Merchant is a man with money. However, Chaucer lets the reader know that the Merchant actually is in debt but "There knew no person that he was in debt/ So stately was he of his governaunce" (pg 200 lns 282-283). No one was aware of the Merchant's financial situation because he kept his affairs in order and kept a dignified demeanor. As well as describing the Merchant, Chaucer also describes a Clerk with great detail.In addition to the Merchant, Chaucer also writes about the Clerk who is a student of the church. In The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales Chaucer uses the horse of each character to provide further details about the character. For example, he describes the Clerk's horse and says "As lean was his horse as is a rake,/ And he was not right fat,/… But looked hollow" (pg 200 lns 289-291). This quote indicates that the Clerk is also a thin person who is not very fat. Once again, Chaucer proves that "no detail is too small" when he analyzes how the Clerk speaks and writes, "And that was said with decorum and reverence,/ And short and lively, and full of elevated thought:/ Resounding in moral virtue was his speech" (pg 201 lns 307-309). Since the Clerk speaks with decorum and elevated thought it shows that he is a man of high education. Also, the morality in his speech demonstrates his strong moral compass.Finally, Chaucer's description of the Wife of Bath further exemplifies H.S. Bennett's quote. When Chaucer describes the Wife he says "Her headcovers full fine were of texture/ I dare say they weighed ten pound,/…Her leggings were of fine scarlet red" (pg 204 lns 455-458). The richness of the color of the Wife's leggings suggest that she was wealthy because in that time period only rich people would wear cloths with deep and rich colors. Another detail that exemplifies the wealth of the Wife is her headcovers. Also, "Gap-toothed was she, soothly for to say./ Upon an amblere easily she sat" (pg 205 lns 470-471). When Chaucer says the Wife is gap-toothed it is a sign that she loves people very easily, which explains why she has had 5 husbands. In addition to being gap-toothed, she can sit on her horse easily, which also illustrates her wealthy background.In conclusion, Chaucer's detailed portraits of each of his characters in The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales supports H.S. Bennett's quote about Chaucer's careful observations and his attention to detail.


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