Essay Two Character Discussion
Chaucer always takes an interest in clothes and adornments of dress, not just in the 'General Prologue' but in the tales.
Select a number of characters from the 'General Prologue' and the 'Miller's Tale' (probably at least five) and discuss what we learn about their attire and what it reveals about their personalities.
‘The Miller’s Tale’ is a small selection of Geoffrey Chaucer’s complete work, ‘The Canterbury Tales’. It is assumed that ‘The Canterbury Tales’ continues on from ‘The General Prologue’. There were said to have been over 120 stories in ‘The Canterbury Tales’, counting four stories for each pilgrim, two to be completed on the way to Canterbury, and two on the way back, however Chaucer had only ever completed Twenty-Two. (Christ et al., 2006, p.215) While writing these poems, Chaucer depicted much about the attire that each pilgrim wore, as well as large chunks of their personality, and how their attire reflected on that. In this essay, 5 characters will be discussed to learn about their attire and how it impacted as well as created their personality. In the poems ‘The General Prologue’ and ‘The Miller’s Tale’, Geoffrey Chaucer uses a complex style of descriptive writing to intensely describe the characters in the poems, providing an in depth description about the attire of the characters creating strong personalities for each disposition.
Chaucer uses a string of strong terms to describe and give the reader a vivid mental image of each of his characters, displaying numerous personality traits for each character, such as jealousy, comfort, and over compensation by lavishing themselves in superfluous riches. One such character is The Prioress, giving great detail about her looks and temperament, including the most basic features and emotions that create her personality. Chaucer writes of her in a neutral tone, giving basic descriptions as to how a woman of the era was to behave, but questions how she performs as a nun, taking profit of situations and items that seem inappropriate for a nun when it is expected of them to give up all of their worldly possessions and surrender all items to the church. “A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene, An theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene,” (Christ et al., 2006, p.221) He describes her attire in a small section, mostly on how well she is presented in clothes that would not be seen on a nun of the time. Chaucer writes of The Prioress as a person taking advantage of her position, showing that she has access to plenty of food which seems to be a main describing point for Chaucer, as he discusses through many lines the attributes that are due to her well fed stature. “For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.” (Christ et al., 2006, p.222) Through Chaucer’s description an image of a well fed and pompous character is presented, with a cold and hard personality “hir eyen greye as glas” (Christ et al., 2006, p.222), with attributes that may make her seem gentle and kind. “Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed;” (Christ et al., 2006, p.222) Through the descriptions of her image, you are able to picture a character closer to Royalty than a Nun of the Clergy, with descriptions close enough to fit a noblewoman of the era. “And peyned hir to countrefete cheere Of court, and been estatlich of manere,” (Christ et al., 2006, p.222) This description that Chaucer has presented with the reader shows that the particular character is more fond of appearing to be of high stature rather than a commoner or hand of the clergy seemingly to portray the church as a malicious intent, in this she is a close fit to the Friar.
Immediately starting the introduction of The Summoner, Chaucer describes a man that seems to be evil and vile, with an appealing Cherubic face, in this description however; Chaucer seems to present a situation that contradicts his writings, stating further that “Of his visage children were aferd.” (Christ et al., 2006, p.233) Chaucer continues to paint a despicable picture of a man marred by misfortunes through sickness and injury and that no cure would be enough to repair the damage. The Summoner seemingly self condemn’s people that have access to money and that are in good health and well being, deeming them “The curse of the clergy”. However Chaucer gives the impression he does not wish the reader to feel pity for The Summoner, giving the impression that his actions had been inflicted upon himself through excessive drinking and raucous behavior. “And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood;” (Christ et al., 2006, p.233). During his drunken stupors, Chaucer defines him as a “Noble Rascal”, portraying him as a troublemaker character that you could not replace. “He was a gentil harlot and a kynde; A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde;” (Christ et al., 2006, p.234)
Chaucer portrays The Miller as the dim witted character of the group, being similarly portrayed as a village idiot. However he is the only character in the story that acts with morals, even though it leads him to looking like a fool and being ridiculed by his wife and the town’s people. Chaucer couples The Miller with a much younger woman as his wife to assist in contrasting the difference between himself and other characters. His key personality traits are paranoia and insecurity, with him wanting to control his wife due to her age but also blind devotion shown during the time of the flood. Chaucer portrays him as a fool in instances when he turns a blind eye to obvious events such as absolon serenading his wife outside their window and naïve when he is told of the impending flood by Nicholas. Throughout ‘The Millers tale’, Chaucer portrays john as brainless, but blinded by his love of his wife.