This is a place for the students as well as the lovers of literature. I endeavour to post articles on the core and important areas of English literature to help the students to understand and assimilate them precisely and correctly without confusion. I would also like to share my ideas with them and inculcate in them a passion for literature.
CHAUCER'S USE OF
PHYSIOGNOMY IN CHARACTER PORTRAYAL:
A. The Summoner:
According to the medieval sciences,
the Summoner is afflicted with a species of morphea (a skin disease resulting
from a corruption of the blood) known as gutta
rosacea, which has alreadv developed into that kind of leprosy called
alopecia. Gutta rosacea covers the
skin of the face with livid red pustules. But the Summoner has, besides this,
`scalled browes blake and piled herd', 'narwe eyes', 'whelkes whyte' and
`knobbes' on his cheeks. Chaucer is evidently following contemporary medical
opinion in supposing that the Summoner's skin disease has already developed
into that type of leprosy that is produced de sanguine, or alopecia.
Alopecia. says a contemporary of
Chaucer, is a species of leprosy marked by a complete depilation of the
eyebrows and beard. The eyes of the patient become inflated and red. Pimples of
a reddish colour appear in the face and even on the whole body, from which runs
corruption mixed with blood, as seen in the `whelkes whyte and 'knobbes ' of
the Summoner. His eyebrows have nearly all fallen out, and in their place is
discovered a scabby, scurfy mark of black colour. His beard too has the scall
to such an extent that it is thin and slight. His eyes are swollen and inflamed
to a violent red and the lids, already deprived of lashes, are enlarged and
corrugated so that the slits in between them—'narwe eyes' as Chaucer calls
Chaucer has indicated two principal
causes of the disease. The Summoner is 'lecherous as a sparwe' and is
accustomed to eating 'oynons, garleek and eek leekes' and drinking strong
wines. He is either criminally ignorant or ruthlessly indifferent. Any
physician in his time would tell him that leprosy may be contracted by
association with infected women, and that garlic, onions and leeks all produce
evil humours in the blood, and that red wine is the most powerful and heating
of drinks. The Summoner has not read, or treats with contempt, the medical
authorities, and having once contracted alopecia by riotous and lascivious
living, by the immoderate use of unwholesome drinks and meat, he aggravates it
by sticking to his practices.
B. The Cook:
The Cook is also affected with kind
of cutaneous eruption which is less malignant than the Summoner's but more
offensive to the eye. It is generally agreed that his `normal’ is to be
identified with what the medieval medical writers call the malum mortuum. It is a species of ulcerated, dry-scabbed apostemas
produced by a corruption in the blood. It is an infirmity infecting the arms
and shins of the patient. It consists of dry. ulcers slightly generative at
times of bloody matter, sometimes accompanied by severe itching. The cause is said to be much consumption of melancholie food (e.g.,
flesh of cattle and salt fish) and unhygienic sexual practices, unclean habits,
lack of frequent bathing and continuous wearing of soiled clothes, drinking of
strog wines and so on. So the threadbare sketch of the Cook's pre-eminence in
his profession, mormal and his knowledge of London ale actually reveal all the elements
of his personality. Similarly, the Summoner’s tainted blood strongly indicates this
Archdeacon's messenger has called too promiscuously upon certain erring women
of his diocese with other than the professional purpose of haling them to the
C. The Pardoner:
The Pardoner's physiognomy is
clearly denoted—long straight hair as yellow as wax, which hangs thinly spread
over his shoulders, wide open and glaring eyes, with voice high-pitched and
thin as a goat, no indication of a beard, and a long scrawny neck. The ancient
physiognomist Antonius Polemon Laodicensis says that glaring eyes prominrntly
set indicate a man given to folly, a glutton, a libertine and a drunkard. High,
thin voice with such eyes are directly associated with shamelessness,
impudence, gluttony and licentiousness. Long, soft hair, fine in texture and
reddish or yellow in colour indicates an impoverished blood, lack of vitality,
and effeminacy of mind. The sparser the hair, the more cunning and deceptive is
the man. Another authority opines that a long thin neck is a sign of garrulity,
haughtiness of spirit and evil habits, and a man beardless by nature is endowed
with a fondness for women and for crafty dealings, besides being impotent.
The Pardoner has been most
unfortunate in his birth. He carries upon his mind and his body the marks of
what is known to a physiognomist as a eunuchus
ex nativitate. An authority in the fourth century says that those who are
eunuchs by fault of nature possess certain evil characteristics which
distinguish them from other men. They are usually cruel, crafty and vicious.
The eunuchus ex nativitate is held to
lack the redeeming qualities of even the eunuchus
qui castratus. The ones who have never had a beard are worse.
Most of the medical authorities cite Polemon as the
authority on eunuchs. He says:
"When the eye is wide open and like
marble, glitters and coruscates, it indicates a shameless lack of modesty. This
quality of the eyes is observed in a man who is not like other men, but is a
eunuch. I have only known one of this kind. He was lustful and dissolute above
all moderation. He had a prominent forehead, a long, thin neck, and his cries
were like women. He took particular care of his own person by nurturing his
abundant hair, rubbing his body with medicated unguents and by employing every
expedient that might excite a desire for sexual pleasure. He was given to
scornful jesting, and whatever came into his mind, he acted upon immediately.
Being learned in Greek, he was accustomed to use that the most. He frequented
cities and market-places, meditating on justice and gathering men together in
order that he might display evil. Above all, he was a very astute wizard,
practicing life and death for men; wherefore he so influenced people that vast
crowds of men and women flocked to hear him. Moreover, he persuaded men that he
was able to force women to them just as they sought women and surreptitiously
he caused to transpire that which he had predicted. As an instructor in the
doing of evil he was a past master; he collected all kinds of deadly poisons.
All the power of his ingenuity was directed toward the performance of these
things. Whenever, therefore, you see such eyes, you may understand that their
possessor is similar to this kind of eunuch."
D. The Wife of Bath:
Dame Alisoun's body and mind are
influenced by the dominant planet ruling at her birth, Venus. The children of
Venus are beautiful, tall, delicate, given to drink and little food, music and the
arts, and to passion. They are stately, plump but not stout, graceful, with
white skin touched with pink. But unfortunately, these beneficial aspects of
Venus are clouded by the presence of Mars, and the Wife is finally shaped by
both. So she is endowed with a stocky build which is more or less ungraceful,
buxom, and of medium height. The strength which should have accompanied grace
and beauty of body is distorted into an abundance of fecund energy; her large
hips indicate excessive virility. In place of the attractive face—round but not
too large, with finely chiseled features, resplendent black eyes and finely
arched brows, a lovely peach-bloom complexion set off by thick curling hair of
a dark shade--all of which Venus might have given her, she has inflicted upon
her by the malignancy of Mars a slightly heavy face inclined to fatness,
characterized by perhaps coarsened features and certainly by a red or florid
complexion, which indicates immodesty, loquaciousness and drunkenness. Her
voice, which should have been sweet, low and well-modulated, is harsh,
strident, and raised continually in vulgar jest and indelicate banter. Such a
voice is especially significant in its betrayal of the Wife's voluptuous and
luxurious nature. And where the love-star might have given her small sharp
teeth white as alabaster, Mars is perhaps responsible for her 'gat-tothed'
mouth, where gap-teeth signify that she is envious, irreverent, luxurious by
nature, bold, deceitful faithless and suspicious.
This remarkable distortion of her
body is paralleled by a warping of her character resulting from the Venus-Mars
conjunction in Taurus. Those born under the sole influence of Venus are
naturally of a happy, joyous disposition, amiable, charming, attractive,
delighting in dance and all such innocent entertainment, but withal gentle,
refined, and calmly dignified. They are religious in nature, just in their
dealings with men, leaders of noble lives and of an artistic nature, loving
delicate and pleasant odours, the colours of elegant apparel and precious
jewels. Endowed with the warmest of hearts, they are highly prone to violent
amours with the opposite sex, though their amatory relations need not
necessarily lead to vice.
Such a woman the cloth-maker of Bath might have been, but
for Mars. The natural cheerfulness resolves itself into a kind of crude and
clamorous hilarity, an overflow of superabundant animal and intellectual
spirits. Her religious instinct has been debased to her going to vigils and to
preaching simply to show off her finery, and attending to Miracle plays or
going on pilgrimages just to satisfy an idle curiosity or to find another lusty
husband. The artistic temperament has been cheapened by Mars, so that she
flashily decks herself out in gaudy colours—in scarlet dresses and hose, brand
new shoes and silver spurs—and adorns herself on Sundays with cover-chiefs
weighing ten pounds and on pilgrimage, with a hat as large as a shield. Mars
has given her a steady hardiness and a body so full of `ragerye' that even at
forty, she is still 'faire and well bigoon', and it is Mars who impels her to
gain at all costs the dominating power over her husbands and who makes of her a
scold, a wrangler and a striker of blows.
Bibiloliography: • W C Curry: Chaucer and the Medieval Sciences.
1. the dream vision of Roman de la Rose (the spring opening
as a prelude to a debate, the emblematic significance of the personification)
2. estates satires, though it is difficult to say for
certain which of these Chaucer knew. Probably he had read the Latin and the
French satires included by his friend John Gower in his Vox Clamantis. The Mirrour de
l’omme and the French Roman de
Carite are influential. Langland's Vision
of Piers Plowman is a direct model for the A-text. Both have ideal
ploughmen, thriving merchants, priests who ran off to London chantries to sing
for silver, friars who wear fineries and absolve sinners for cash, a venal pardoner,
rich sergeants-at-law, a group assorted citizens, mostly cloth workers c.f the
haberdasher, dyers and tapicere, even the Wife.
3. Boccaccio's Decameron has been cited to be one of the
sources, but has not been confirmed.
by Giovanni Sercambi.
• The most famous theme that runs across many tales is
women’s role in marriage, is part of a larger theme of sexual love and the role
of women in the world
• Questions about fortune and providence
• The suffering of the innocent
• What men and women most desire, the choices they make and
the intention behind these choices
Squire - Squires
had an odd collection of duties. They attended on men of rank, up to and
including the royalty. Often they were expected to wear the livery ot their
superior. Squires acted as valets and served at their master's table. They were
also expected to provide him and any distinguished guests with entertainment
e.g. music, story-telling and singing. Thus the squire we meet here has the
necessary accomplishments. However, he is also clearly meant to he compared
with his rather whose courage and campaigning experience he is already showing.
But where the old knight is simple in dress and apparently limited in artistic
and social skills, the young squire combines these skills with military virtues
and a fine taste in clothes.
Yeoman — Also
belonging to the aristocracy, the yeoman was a farmer of modest position as
compared with someone who owns an estate. He would generally be quietly
prosperous and independent, though his close-cropped hair is the mark of a
servant. He might have been the tenant of a farm on the knight's estate, where
he also served as a forester, an important position in those times of strict
preservation of game, when hunting was the chief outdoor activity of the
Prioress — She may
have been of a minor aristocratic family, and such women were often a very real
liability to their parents. If a good match could not be found, and this meant
a handsome dowry had to go with the bride, there was really nothing for them to
do. They could not work for a living. So they either lingered on as vaguely
helpful spinsters in the households of their relations, or entered the Church
as nuns. Some of the convents were quite small and not particularly pious, but
probably pleasant enough places for such women to live in an atmosphere of
chatter and rather lax observation of the official rules.
Monk — The first
monastery had been founded by St Benedict over 900 years before the Prologue
was written, and the code of practice which Benedict laid down, and which
became the basis for monastic life generally as other Orders were founded, was
to keep strictly to a fixed routine of prayer, praise and work to live an
austere life and, in the case of the enclosed Orders, not to leave the
monastery at all once you had taken your vows. (It should perhaps be explained
that in Roman Catholic teaching we can all help to alleviate the suffering of
souls in Purgatory by prayer, so a primary function of monks and nuns was
regular worship on behalf of the people). Monasteries also become centers of
learning, often acted as local dispensaries to sick people, gave shelter to
poor travelers, and were, ideally, self-supporting by the labour of all the
members. Over a millennium, however; a lot of monasteries had become
prosperous, idle and corrupt, though perhaps a majority still carried on the
good work. However, there was growing feeling that the cloistered life was all
too comfortably remote from reality. The Monk himself certainly does not care
for it and is thoroughly leading a worldly life.
Friar - While the
Monk was essentially one who lived in a monastery a life of regular prayer, a
friar went out in the world, as poorly clad as Christ's own disciples, and
preached. The four Orders referred to are the Black Friars or Dominicans, the
Franciscans Grey Friars, the Carmelites or White Friars, and the Augustinians
or Austin Friars. St Francis, the most well known of the friars, is held to be
the example of poverty, humility and simplicity. Poverty meant that they could
beg—indeed often they had to. As they sometimes needed accommodation, they
built friaries, which soon become large and wealthy. Friars were popular
because they preached, and medieval folk enjoyed the spoken word, and because
they would carry out many of the duties of priest as well. On the other hand
they were unpopular, and the subject of many of the accusations which Chaucer
makes, because they had easy access to all sorts of households in particular to
women, and got a lot of free food and drink. To be a successful friar as
distinct from a religious one, you had to be good at pleasing all sorts of
people. Our Friar is smooth-
Clerk — He is one
of Chaucer's gentlest and most effective portraits. He is humbly dressed, badly
mounted, reticent in speech and very poor. His position is not easy to define.
Most students who managed to go to the university would after a study of the standard
subjects such as grammar and rhetoric, mathematics and astronomy, proceed
to theology and would probably enter at
least the 'minor orders' of the Church. Many did, not go further and take steps
to become priest but found work with their skills of literacy and numeric.
Man of Law — The
Sergeant of the Law is a very superior member of the legal fraternity. He was a
barrister of the highest rank, one of whose duties was to act as adviser to the
Crown. From this level of hierarchy, judges were chosen. In Chaucer's day, men
of this rank amassed substantial fortunes, and there were some areas of
practice, particularly to do with property deals, where they could succeed in
pleasing their client without being over-scrupulous. The wealthy and somewhat
pompous lawyer is an echo of the merchant; both are men who have turned their
wits to profit. Like the Franklin who follows, he is rich, and it was becoming
possible to buy your way into higher level of society.
Franklyn — A
Franklin, or 'freeman', meant someone who owned property in his own right. They
were often very prosperous, undertook public duties and offices, and were respected.
They did not however, have any aristocratic rank. Though our Franklin is no snob or social climber perhaps
he would have liked to feel his family one day ennobled, and when he comes to
tell his story he wishes his son would mingle more with the nobility. He is
seen as an ideal type of country gentleman.
Doctor— In the
age of Chaucer, medical advisers were expected to be experts in astrology, and
they based their practice on writers of the fourth century BC, and upon the
authority of Aesculapius, who left no written records at all and was probably
mythical. It is necessary to emphasise two points here. First, medieval people
believed implicitly in the influence of the stars, which governed not only our
characters and destinies, but the different parts of our bodies. A doctor thus
had to know how to calculate the most suitable time to administer a particular
medicine, according to the position of the relevant planets. Second, the huge
list of authors with which the doctor is familiar may not be satirical, as
suggested by some commentators. In the Middle Ages, there was a great respect
for authority. If it is Aristotle, it is true. The doctor is probably a good physician, but an expensive one. In those times, no
common man consulted a doctor. The doctors made their money from the rich. It
is also true that they made their money at the misfortune of others, like the
Man of Law. Perhaps it is this that tells us was rich, because he had saved up
all the money made during the plague.
Miller – Millers
were unpopular because they had a monopoly—a man with corn to grind had to take
it to the local mill – and millers could very easily swindle, since the absence
of exact weighing devices made it hard to know how much flour your corn would
make, how much the miller had taken as his 'toll'. Chaucer's Miller is
presented in a brutish way—animal imagery abounds—and as being thoroughly
coarse-grained. He does tell a very rude story, though it is extremely
Maunciple – The
Maunciple is responsible for the catering in one of the Inns of Court, the
'legal university' of the time, to which all barristers must belong. The
portrait points to the cleverness of a servant in comparison with his
employers, who are steeped in legal learning. He is probably a swindler, who
makes a lot of money for himself out of his supposed masters by buying cheap
and doctoring the accounts.
Reeve – The Reeve
is extremely unpopular with everybody, both for himself and for his job. He, a
ruthless demander of rents, acts as a sort of bailiff to a large estate and cannot
be cheated, but is dishonest himself.
Summoner – The
job of a summoner was to summon people to the ecclesiastical courts, which
dealt with moral offences, such as adultery, and they were presided over by a
bishop or an archdeacon. He also acted as a semi-official informer. Such a post
was open to corruption, and Chaucer's Summoner is extremely corrupt, actually
accepting bribes and encouraging the
very sins that he was supposed to report for examination .His ailment was
probably leprosy, and his diet of garlic and onions would hardly help his
Pardoner – Like
the Summoner, the Pardoner is presented in a thoroughly unpleasant light. The
gross abuse of the sale of pardons was one of the reasons for Reformation.
Pardoners sold what seemed to be Papal documents which gave absolution for
sins; the original idea was that by giving a sum of money to the Church, as
well as undergoing the essential act of contrition in yourself, you could be
free of minor trespasses. their This led to serious abuses. Pardoners sold fake
documents and relics, and claimed that the purchase of their documents could
free men from greatest sins with no more trouble than simply praying for them. The
Pardoner gives a more frank account of his swindles before he tells his story which
turns out to be a prefect little sermon, a parable about greed of all things,
told with great skill and economy. He has been suggested to be homosexual and
effeminate. Chaucer hints that he was
not fully a man – hence the unbroken ‘goot-like’ voice and hairless face.
29 pilgrims are shown to be
travelling to the holy shrine of Thomas Beckett (thought to be able to cure
diseases) at Canterbury.
Each of the 29 pilgrims is supposed to tell two tales on way to Canterbury and two more
on way back. So there should have been 29 x 4 = 116 tales in all, but the
unfinished work contains only 24 tales told by 23 pilgrims (Chaucer himself as
a pilgrim narrates two). The winner is to be decided by the host of Tabard Inn,
Harry Bailey; the winner is to be treated to dinner ‘at oure aller cost’ and
whoever opposes his judgment will reimburse the expenses of all pilgrims.
Later, they are joined by two more, the Canon and his Yeoman; therefore, there
are 29 + 2 = 31 pilgrims in all. But it has been suggested that the Prioress'
three priests might be an error, because only one is mentioned later.
Pilgrims at Tabard Inn
The Knight's Tale
is the story of Palamon and Arcite, a
courtly romance, based on Boccaccio's Teseida.
Both Palamon and Arcite compete for the love of Emelye, sister of Hippolyta.
queen of the Amazons, who has married Theseus, King of Athens. Palamon is
defeated in the tournament but Arcite is thrown off his horse at the moment of
triumph and dies. Palamon and Emelye are united after a prolonged mourning for
The Miller's Tale
is a rollicking story of a credulous carpenter and his pretty wife, who
cuckolded him with an ingenious and personable young clerk. It has been said to
be a parody of a courtly love story.
The Reeve's Tale:
The Miller's tale enrages the Reeve, whose duties included carpentry. He tells
a fabliau of two Cambridge students who take their meal to him
to be ground. The miller robs them, and they avenge themselves by sleeping with
both his wife and his daughter.
The Cook's Tale:
The Reeve's tale sends the cook, Roger of Ware, into gales of laughter. He too
begins a fabliau of Perkyn Revelour.
of which only about 60 lines are extant.
The Man of Law's Tale
is a symbolic story in rhyme royal, of the various misfortunes of Constance,
daughter of a Roman Emperor, who married the Sultan of Turkey on condition that
he embrace Christianity, but faces the jealous plots of the Sultan's mother.
The tale lacks the complexity of the earlier stories.
The Wife of Bath's
Tale seems rather unusual and flat for such a vivid character. It is the
story of the loathly lady' who turns out to be beautiful young woman when her
husband (whom she had acquired by doing him service and making him promise any
payment in return) submits to her wise governance. The tale carries on the
concept of `rnaistrye' and ‘experience' and combines shrewd realism with
romantic delicacy. The actual tale is preceded by a long prologue, where the
Wife, Alisoun, describes in candid detail her life with and her tactics to procure
her five husbands. Much of it is drawn from the antifeminist literature of the
day, from Jean de Meun, St Paul, Jerome and
The Friar's Tale
is about a greedy summoner. They come upon a carter cursing his horse to the
devil. but the devil cannot take the horse because the curse was not from the
heart. Later they meet an old lady and the summoner tries to rob her of some
money and then she curses him to the Devil. The Devil promptly carries the
summoner to hell, because this curse came from the heart.
The Summoner's Tale:
The summoner takes offence at the Friar's tale and interrupts with a tale of a greedy Friar whose
covetousness lands him in a comically humiliating position, when he visits a
sick man to offer him superficial words of comfort and divide a deathbed legacy.
The Clerk's Tale: This is the story of the patient wife Griselda
and her trials by her husband, the Marquis Walter. It is told in rhyme royal and
carries wifely meekness and obedience to an extreme and is interrupted by
Chaucer himself. This is thought to be repose to the wife of Bath's tale and part of the 'marriage group'
of tales triggered by Dame Alisoun's narrative.
The Merchant's Tale:
This is provoked by the Clerk's Tale. This is a tale of January. the old husband
and Mary his young wife. January married young May against much advice from
Justinus, and when he goes blind, she makes love to Damyan in a pear-tree.
Pluto mischievously restores January's sight at this moment. but Proserpine
inspires May to explain that her activities had been responsible for his
restored vision and that she was only performing her wifely duties.
The Squire's Tale:
This is an unfinished tale of Cambuscan, King of Tartary, who receives gifts on
his birthday. Those from the king of Arabia
include a ring for his daughter Canacee, which makes her understand the
language of birds. The tale is incomplete.
The Franklin's Talc: It continues marriage
debate with tale of Dorigin, wife of Aradragus. She will agree to the demands
of her suitor Aurelius provided he perform an impossible task - remove all the
rocks on the coast of Brittany.
But her ploy to get rid of her suitor fails when the condition is fulfilled
with the help of magic. However, Aurelius himself releases her of her promise
in a burst of generosity and remorse.
The Physician's Tale:
a morbid story of Virginia
whose request to be killed to escape the amorous designs oldie judge Apius, is
fulfilled by her father.
The Pardoner's Tale:
like the wife of Bath, the Pardoner's tale follows a similarly candid and
self-expository prologue where he confesses proudly to his own covetousness, a
theme that takes up to impress his audience and persuade them to take his
pardons. In the tale, three drunkard rioters set out to find Death and an old
man directs them to a tree. There they find a heap of gold, cheat each other in
order to posses all of it, and all are killed.
The Shipman's Tale:
The wife of a miserly merchant asks for money from a priest to buy finery. The
priest borrows the sum from the merchant himself, gives it to the wife, and
receives her favours. When the merchant returns and asks the priest for his
money, he says he has repaid it to his wife, who cannot deny receive the sum.
The Prioress' Tale:
This rather bland tale narrates of the murder of a child by the Jews because he
was singing a Marian hymn, and the discovery of the body later on because of
its continued singing.
Chaucer's Tale of Sir
Thopas: This is a brilliant parody of the conventional metrical romance.
There is a steady meter, mechanical listing of physical attributes and other details,
of the objects Sir Thopas carries, and so on. After about 30 stanzas of his
deliberate burlesque, he is shut up by the host, when he offers to narrate 'a
liter thing in prose'- the tale of Melible. Sir Thopas was in a six line stanza
form with a trail —rhyme, where a pair of rhyming lines is followed by a single
line of different length and this three-line pattern is repeated to make up a
six- or a twelve-line stanza.
Chaucer's Tale of
Melibee: This heavy prose homily is the other extreme of Sir Thopas. It is
a long tedious tale of the impetuous Melibeus and his wise wife Prudence.
The Monk's Tale:
These are series of tragedies, all about a reversal of fortune from high to low.
In eight-line stanzas, it tells of the falls of Lucifer,
Adam, Samson, Hercules, Nero, Holofernes, Alexander, and Julius Caesar and so
on, before he is interrupted by the knight who can no longer bear these dreary
The Nun's Priest's
Tale: This is related to the French cycle of Renart the fox. The quiet
realistic account is of Chanticleer, the cock and Pertelote, the hen, both
belonging to a poor widow. Chanticleer is duped into the fox's trap by the
praise of his father's singing, but was in turn tricked out of his prey by
making him boast of his victory. The mock-heroic story is full of medieval
sciences — medicine, astrology and psychology beast epic and rhetoric and wit.
The Second Nun's Tale: This is an account in rhyme royal of
the life and martyrdom of St. Cecilia and her husband Valerian.
The Canon's Yeoman's
Tale: The Canon
and his Yeoman are the last of pilgrims
to join the entourage. The Yeoman tells at some length of the tricks
used by his master in his practice of alchemy to dupe people. This shames his
master so much that he rides away. His tale proper is about a canon who
practices alchemy as well as (though he insists that is not his master) who tricks
a priest out of forty pound by pretending to teach him the art of making
The Manciple's Tale:
This fable of the tell-tale crow has many sources, including Ovid and the
orient. Phebus has a crow which is white and capable of speech. The crow, tells
Phebus of his wife's infidelity, and he kills her in a fit of rage. When
remorse strikes, he plucks out the white feathers, depriving the crow of its speech
and throwing it to the devil and this is why crows today are black.
The Parson's Tale:
This prose sermon was intended to end the Canterbury
Tales, even if it is incomplete, for the Parson mentions clearly that his
tale will knit up and end this festivity. It is a long treatise on penitence
and the seven deadly sins.
The Parson's tale is followed by Chaucer 's closing
.Retracciouns' where he takes leave of his book.
With reference to Ode
to Psyche, Keats himself said in a letter to his brother:
“It is the first and only one with
which I have taken even moderate pains. I have, for the most part, dashed off
my lines in hurry”
Though it was written in hurry, it is Keats’ one of the most
perfect piece of poetic creations. Here the poet revives and recreates the
Psyche myth from Greek mythology. According to the Greek mythology, Psyche was
a beautiful nymph loved by Cupid, god of love. He visited her each night, but
departed at sunrise. Psyche was told never to attempt to discover his identity,
but her curiosity won out. One night she lit a lamp to see him. But some of the
burning oil dropped upon him. Awakened angry at being disobeyed, he left her.
Psyche wandered helplessly in search of her lover and became the slave of Venus
who imposed cruel tasks on her. Eventually she was reunited with Cupid and made
immortal. Because of her late arrival on Olympus,
as Keats observed, she was never honoured and worshiped in the way of other
gods. He also explained in the same letter that Psyche was not regarded as a
goddess before the time of Apuleius, who lived after the Augustan age, and that
the goddess was never worshiped with any of the ancient fervour. Keats did not
wish to let a heathen goddess remain neglected. He therefore wrote this poem as
a tribute to her and attempted to restore her place among the gods and
begins with an invocation to Psyche apologizing for singing to her of herself:
hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
that thy secrets should be sung
Even into thine own soft-conched ear”
Then the poet describes that in a vision he has seen Psyche
and Cupid embracing each other in an idyllic surrounding in a forest. They sat beneath
“ the whispering roof of leaves and trembled blossoms.” A brook, hardly
visible, because of the thick grass that grows on its bank, ran by them. Amidst
the deep grass and soft and fragrant flowers, they were found in an intimate
cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
silver-white, and budded Tyrian,
calm-breathing, on the bedded grass;
arms embraced, and their pinions too;”
Then the poet praises Psyche’s beauty abundantly. He says
that her beauty is unparalled among the Greek gods and goddesses living in mountOlympus.
She surpasses both Lucifer and Vesper in beauty. Yet no tributes or offerings
are made to her. The poet pleads the goddess to allow him to take the role of
her priest. He will create a shrine for her within his own mind. He imagines
his mind to be a forest with ‘zephyrs’, ‘streams’, ‘birds’, and ‘bees’. Here he
will build a temple which will be decked with roses which signify his verses. A
bright torch will be kept burning in the temple and one of its windows will be
left open to let her to come at late night.
The ode has
often been seen as an extended metaphor about poetry, a reading that can be
supported by an analysis of the development of ideas in relation to structure.
Keats restores and recreates the forgotten Psyche myth twice in this poem and
these recreations occurs within the two tableaux which frame the ode. When the
poet asks, “Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see/ The winged Psyche with
awaken'd eyes”, he introduces the first recreation. Here she is represented in
a mythological past world, a forest bower,
a place exterior to the passive poet’s mind and accessible by dream or
vision. The second recreation occurs when he vows to be her priest. Here she is
more consciously and artfully recreated within the bower of poet’s mind and
brought into the present. The movement from one tableaux to another is
complemented by a change from the language of erotic experience to the language
of aesthetic experience. The first lush natural setting is firmly anchored in
sense impressions while the description in the final tableaux is too
consciously artful. There is movement from the warm language of physical love
to the cooler language of religious formality. Thus the poem illustrates the
process of poetic creation – from sensation to sublimity. Some critics have
seen this ode as an allegory of soul which has not been recognized until modern
The ode is
typically Keatsian for being utterly sensual in nature. It contains plenty of
sensual and synaesthetic images. The description of pastoral landscape in
which Cupid and Psyche spend their blissful moment is richly sensuous. Different
expressions like - ‘Whispering roof of leaves’, ‘cool-rooted’ and
‘fragrant-eyed’ flowers, and ‘bedded grass’ appeal to our different senses.
Q. What is symbol? Give a suitable example by referring to a poem you have read.
i) Symbol is something associated with something else that it signifies or represents. Symbol is an object that stands for something else and opens up the possibility of multiple meanings over and beyond it. Symbols frequently are based on a likeness. The lion represents courage because lions are said to be bravo. The lily symbolizes purity because, it is white. Symbolic identifications have a certain persistence, but symbols are detachable and in time may find other affinities. The eagle of Jupiter,a heavenly messenger, became identified in Christian times with St. John, but in alchemy the eagle became the symbol of volatilization. In a somewhat stranger fashion, red -the colour of Christian charity - became associated for quite other reasons with communism and class conflict. Analogy in symbolism can be attributed to the theory of correspondence, which involved the idea that all parts of creation are related through analogy, so that to every material manifestation there corresponds a reality of a higher Order. As a result poetic symbolism becomes a means of revealing the hidden correspondences of the universe. The literary symbol appeals to the imagination and to the instinctive feelings of the reader, not to the intellect. A symbol is not a token with a precise, definite,clearly established conceptual reference to be pinned down and accurately described.
ii) Blake's The Tyger stands for and points to creative energy but it is also an instance of that creative energy, The mental picture of the Tiger bursting through the "forests of the night" is terrifyingly beautiful. According to T.S.Eliot, the Tiger symbolizes for Blake the "abundant life" which Christ came to bring into the world. The Tiger is for Blake a symbol of regeneration and energy. In The Tyger, Blake suggests the dual aspect of God as creator and destroyer but the symbol remains enigmatic. The poem represents the defeat of Urizen(Satan) by Ore(God); the stars who throw down their spears are the hosts of Urizen, their cold light suggesting the sterility of Reason in contrast to the fiery heat of Energy, In the Prophetic Books, the "immortal smith" is Los. In The.First Book of Urizen, Loa forges Urizen. Since Los represents in some sense Man, the point is that Man is responsible for the creation of Urizen. In "The Tyger", the "immortal smith" forges the Tiger. Possibly the meaning is that it is up to man to give shape to the vast potentialities with which it
Naturalism, a literary and
cultural movement, grew out of realism in 19th century. It gives a
more accurate depiction of life than realism. It is a mode of writing fiction
that was deeply influenced by the Darwinian theory of evolution and focused on
the gloomy aspects of life and the animal aspects hidden behind rational side of
Philosophical Influences on Naturalism: Darwin’s
theory of evolution that destroys the possibility of connection of man with the
higher spiritual order and considers man as an animal of higher-order whose
character and behaviour are determined by heredity and environment. Thus it
rejects the concept of the divine origin of man and shows man as helpless
victim of his instincts and environment. Thus it postulates the central notion
Proponents of Naturalism and their works:
Emile Zola- Nana,
Thomas Hardy- Jude the Obscure (England)
Edith Wharton- The House of Mirth (America)
Ellen Glasgow- Barren Ground (America)
Difference between Realism and Naturalism:
Naturalism grows out of realism, it gives a more accurate picture of life than
Realism does. While Realism gives a general picture of life, Naturalism focuses
on the darker aspects of life and presents ma as nothing but an animal of
higher-order whose behaviour and character are determined by heredity and
environment. Lastly, Naturalism was greatly influenced by Darwin’s theory of
evolution. But in case of realism, there was no such philosophic influence.
The term “realism” is used in two different
ways. Firstly, it refers to a movement in the writings of novels during 19th
century that includes writers like Balzac in France, George Eliot in England
and William Dean Howells in America. Secondly, it refers to a mode of
writing in different eras and literary form that represents human life and
experience in way that appears realistic to the readers.
Define and Explain “real”, “reality” and “realism”:
“Real” means existing as a thing or occurring as a fact.
Actually what is not imaginary is real.
“Reality” is the quality of being real. But the qualities
that make an object to appear real are not fixed. It varies with regard to
time, place and individual.
The term “realism” refers to a literary movement
that took place in 19th century. It is also a method of writing that
represents the subject matter (it may be commonplace or rarer aspects of life)
in a credible way so that the readers may take it as real.