“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer is a frame narrative, or a story in which a main story incorporates or frames a number of other stories. The purpose of the frame tale in frame narratives is essentially to provide the other stories a context; it typically has little storyline of its own. The following stories, on the other hand, are often of a different genre and have a distinct beginning, middle, and finish. The journey to Canterbury serves as the poem’s frame narrative in “The Canterbury Tales”.
The Canterbury Tales as a frame narrative
Chaucer introduces the pilgrims—our storytellers—and the storytelling competition—which creates a setting for the tales—in the General Prologue. Chaucer incorporates a wide range of literary genres through the use of the storytelling competition, including fabliau, courtly romance, and allegorical tale. These inner stories, which are far more exciting than the framing, range from a chivalric tale about knights defending the woman they love (The Knight’s Tale) to an allegory about a haughty rooster being threatened by a cunning fox (The Nun’s Priest’s Tale).
The Canterbury Tales‘ central storyline revolves around a group of diverse pilgrims who are traveling from London to Canterbury in order to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. They are competing to see who can tell the finest tale, and the winner will receive a free lunch at the Tabard Inn when they get back.
How Chaucer organize his main characters:
The principal characters of “The Canterbury Tales” are introduced in the prologue. Chaucer makes his characters make a promise that one of them will tell a tale at the end of each day spent traveling to the shrine. Chaucer masterfully alludes to a number of the speaker’s qualities in these stories’ structure, but he leaves it up to the reader to determine what those qualities actually mean. The reader finds a great deal about human character, medieval civilization, honesty, kindness, cunning, etc. by reading between the lines in both the Prologue and the Tales. The reader, for instance, learns more about the vile behavior (avarice, self-centeredness, immodesty, etc.) of the majority of the clergy members featured in the poem, with the exception of the Parson, who is a real servant of God.
The Wife of Bath:
Chaucer produced one of literature’s greatest comedy characters in The Wife of Bath, a larger-than-life domineering feminist who is outrageous but strong and nevertheless heroically stubborn. Chaucer writes about her as if she were in front of him. To make the Wife come to life in front of our eyes, he uses a number of devices. His use of colloquial language gives his writing a relaxed, welcoming feel: “I dare swear…” His dramatization of the heaviness of her headdress—“a full ten pound”—is humorous. We can only speculate that she chose to wear “hose…of the choicest scarlet red” because she is wealthy and wants to be noticed. She has a “bold” face and is straightforward and honest. She’s been married five times, and now she’s hunting for her sixth spouse. She makes filthy jokes without apologizing.
Deception in The Canterbury Tales:
Many characters in “The Canterbury Tales” pretend to be what they are not. The Prioress is trying to portray herself as a courtly lady. The Merchant wants people to believe he is financially stable. These lies are exposed by the narrator, and they contribute to the humor of “The Canterbury Tales”. Other pilgrims, like the Pardoner, who earns a tidy profit from false relics, or the Friar, who persuades people he is needy enough to deserve charity, live off the generosity of others. This charge demonstrates how those in positions of power may maintain their control by speaking the same language that the weak use. However, the relationship of lies and deception with storytelling is possibly the most significant manner that they are addressed in “The Canterbury Tales”. This raises the issues of what constitutes a true narrative and whether or not the concepts of truth and falsity are applicable to literature.
The Wife is described in great depth by Chaucer, allowing the reader to picture a real woman rather than a pretentious one. One may visualize what life was really like in Chaucer’s day and understand that people back then were extremely similar to people today thanks to Chaucer‘s ability to convey such realistic individuals without judgment or pretense. Although we may like his utilization of humor and admire the irony he observes, his story offers a genuine information sharing that is neither harsh or preachy. The author’s slice of life is tender but revealing. It is up to the reader to make a final judgment on these personalities.
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Use of allegory in frame narrative:
It’s likely that the pilgrims’ journey from London to Canterbury symbolizes another journey that was significant to a medieval person: the journey from Earth to Heaven. We have a sinful group of pilgrims at the start of the journey, many of them are concealing numerous vices and fraudulent activities. By the time they arrive at Canterbury, they should have been completely atoned for their crimes, since this pilgrimage is intended to be a journey of repentance. The tavern therefore symbolizes the wicked life on Earth in this allegory, and Canterbury the sinless life in paradise that everyone strives to attain.
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Chaucer makes relatively little use of the framing tale aside from having the travelers interrupt and comment on one another’s stories. He makes no mention of the route or the locations they pass through. The primary goal of the framing tale is to offer a justification for why such a varied group of individuals would be gathered together. The pilgrimage offers a unique chance for rich and poor to interact and communicate on equal terms.
The stories’ random arrangement serves to emphasize the pilgrimage’s egalitarian spirit. Since the knight holds the greatest social position and is the first character to be introduced in the General Prologue, he speaks first. However, the Miller interrupts and tells his narrative next, upsetting the established order. After this, the various socioeconomic groups are then mingled together as if they were merely traveling on a pilgrimage.
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