Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Lexicon of Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer was a British author born into the emerging middle class of Medieval England. He worked often for the aristocracy, thus his writing could have been biased when introducing characters of a higher social class. In his signature collection, "The Canterbury Tales", there are certain instances of diction that allude to the social status and moral nobility of each individual character.

In the General Prologue, there are three characters that are described at length: a knight, a nun, and an aristocrat. The knight is said to be "a worthy man/ [...who...] loved chivalrye/ trouthe and honour, freedom and curteisye," (Greenblatt et al, 2006, p. 219). Likewise, the nun is shown in a positive light when she is presented as a woman whose smile was, "ful simple and coy/ [...] Ful wel she soong the service divine," (Greenblatt et al, 2006, p. 221). However, when Chaucer goes into detail about an aristocrat (well, important churchman), his words are not flattering in the least; "His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas/ [...] He was a lord ful fat and in good point," (Greenblatt et al, 2006, p. 223). From these excerpts, one could assume that characters who served others or did not have much money held a greater regard than that of the aristocracy in parts of "The Canterbury Tales".

Greenblatt, et al. (Eds.). (2006). Teaching with the Norton Anthology of English Literature (8th ed.).New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company

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