“Here begins The Tales of Canterbury …”. This collection is full of intrigue. They shed light on the Middle Ages. In those days, hierarchy, feudalism, chivalry, and order were common. This tale tells the story of 29 people who embark on a pilgrimage. They meet at Tabard Inn. The story’s Host and Narrator proposes that each person tells two stories about the pilgrimage to Canterbury.
Chaucer uses the “…prologue to tell you the story of the character and the degree they have. There were 29 characters in the book, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Chaucer’s candor allows us to see the character in its entirety and the dynamics of the characters. Chaucer’s humor not only points out flaws, but also makes them a fact. Chaucer’s humor does not have the intention of hurting others. It is meant to help people understand who they are and to illustrate their strengths and weaknesses. It is easy to see how Chaucer combines humor and honesty. There are very few examples of characters who display these traits.
The host will also discuss three specific individuals with humor and detail. These are the Squire and Merchant, as well as the Wife of Bath. They all have their own unique characteristics, but the humor they share about their flaws is not straight.
First of all, the young Squire is the knight’s son. The young Squire is a strong, talented, and handsome character. However, all of his energy is focused on the ladies. He is a true gentleman’s man. The description of him is “a lover-lusty bachelor.” Chaucer discusses in detail his strengths and humors the negative aspects of how the squire is using them. He uses them to gain women’s attention. Chaucer closes his description by saying that the Squire was “So hot he love that, while night spun her tales, he never slept more than a nightingale.” It is almost hilarious. This is the son to a distinguished and honorable knight whose strength, courtesy, and charm were used to fight for the lord. However, his son “carves before his father at one table” and is focused on getting his maiden. Chaucer’s ability for identifying the negative in humorous ways helped bring this point home.
The Merchant is next, and he is described in the exact same way. He is described by being dressed up and modern. He has a thick beard and is dressed up in modern clothes. However, the Merchant looks rich and wealthy, and we know that he is very indebted. He borrows money to keep him going, which was considered in medieval England a sign he had poor morals. Chaucer’s humor, in which he says that the Merchant was a “worthy man, withal,” is quite funny.
The Wife to Bath is bold, free-spirited, as we can see from her numerous affairs. Chaucer uses humor to describe this awful trait, creating an oxymoron. He described this trait by saying that “she’d be respectable throughout all her life with five churched spouses bringing joy or strife; but thereof, there’s never need to speak. in truth.” Although the irony is obvious and unmistakable, it was not meant to be said in a mean or harmful way. It was instead made humorous.
This is a great lesson in life. Humor and honesty are closely linked. There will always be flaws in people, but if we highlight them in a harsh way, we can cause havoc and make enemies. Chaucer’s ability is to see both the positives and the negatives so well that characters are able laugh at them, and even agree with them, is remarkable. This is an important advantage when it comes to people skills as well as in everyday life. This attitude, along with humor, can make any negative aspects of our lives more funny.
Life will have many personalities. Each person has their strengths and weaknesses. There is no perfect person. We can look at each person in a positive and different light if we apply the lesson of humor to our lives. Sometimes, we speak to people in a way that seems to offend or make enemies. The truth is that people want to hear it. Learning how to use Chaucer’s humor and truth method in everyday life will allow us to communicate truthfully and not offend others. It does not matter what you say, but how true you are.