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Chaucer's art of Characterisation

Chaucer was the first notable creator of characters in English literature.He had no model.So,he created his own style of character portrayal.In his such works as Troilus and Crisede, The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales,The Canterbury Tales,The Legend of Good Women,Chaucer created some unforgettable characters and gave the picture of his age.His art of characterization is specially marked by three things namely realism,types and individuals and wit and humour.

He is very realistic in the portrayal of his age as well as his characters.His realism is particularly evident in his The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales and The Canterbury Tales.In these works he gave a minute and comprehensive picture of the English society of the fourteenth century.The pilgrims,whom Chaucer describes in the Prologue,are the living characters in the great drama of the social life of the period.In this way he realistically describes the social and religious condition of his age. Chaucer’s pilgrims belong to different social ranks and positions,secular as well as religious.These pilgrims represent the important strands of the English society in Chaucer’s age and elevate the poem to the level of a national portrait gallery.

Thus,Chaucer makes the Canterbury Tales a great human document,containing a clear and comprehensive picture of the age.He succeeds wonderfully in making the poem a living picture of his own country of his own time.

The characters that Chaucer portrays in the Prologue are at once types and individuals true to their own age, and still more,representative of humanity in general.Another important feature of his characterization is the use of wit and humour.Chaucer remains one of the outstanding humorists in English literature and the Prologue bears out his genius as a comical author.The Canterbury Tales is deemed as a great comedy of the human society and this is particularly evident the way he presents his characters.In fact,the Prologue reaches the height of a grand social comedy in poetry.This comic effect is finely achieved by his wonderful sense of wit and humour.Thus the Prologue is not merely a wonderful document of the English social life of the 14th century but also as a delightful comedy of human life.

Chaucer greatly increased the prestige of English as a literary language and extended the range of its poetic vocabulary and meters. He was the first English poet to use the seven-line stanza in iambic pentameter known as rhyme royal and the couplet later called heroic. Chaucer dominated the works of his 15th-century English followers and the so-called Scottish Chaucerians. For the Renaissance, he was the English Homer. Edmund Spenser paid tribute to him as his master; many of the plays of William Shakespeare show thorough assimilation of Chaucer's comic spirit. John Dryden, who modernized several of the Canterbury tales, called Chaucer the father of English poetry.

Chaucer's reputation has been securely established as the English poet best loved after Shakespeare for his wisdom, humor, and humanity.

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