Friday, September 6, 2019

Chaucer creates humour Essay Example for Free

Chaucer creates humour Essay The Merchants Tale is only rarely seen as humorous; most often it is noted for its darkness, its unrelieved acidity; it is said to offer a perversion of the courtly code.1 I disagree with this statement made by J. S. P. Tatlock. Chaucer was successful at creating humour within his narratives, which is partly why his works were, and still are, so popular. Humour can be achieved through a variety of elements including plot, characterisation, language, timing and circumstance. Chaucer used of all these, but largely drew upon the satirical portrayals of both the courtly love genre and religion within The Merchants Tale. The tale opens with The Merchant who is envious and astringent of all people that are of a higher class than he; therefore, in his narrative, he targets and satirizes the traditions of the knightly class, including the romantic conventions of courtly love often attributed to the upper classes.  Another of Chaucers tales is The Knights Tale which is about two knights and close friends, Arcite and Palamon, who are imprisoned by Theseus, duke of Athens. Whilst in prison they fall in love with the beautiful sister of Hippolyta, Emily (Emelye). The sense of competition brought about by this love causes them to hate each other. They eventually get let out of prison and fight each other to win the girl.  Arcite wins the battle, but dies before he can claim Emily, so Palamon marries her. The story introduces many typical aspects of knighthood such as courtly love and ethical dilemmas. The Merchants Tale begins with a description of Januarie who is presented, satirically, as A worthy knight. The Merchant however attempts to display to the audience that this knight is not worthy at all. He contrasts him to the knights in The Knights Tale. Theseus was tough, forceful, confident and young but Januarie is portrayed as old and fading, old and hoor. He is also shown as an exception to many knightly virtues, as he folwed al his bodily delit On women, thereas was his apetite. This portrayal of him shows the audience that he is in fact obsessed with women and sex. In the tale he attempts to gain himself a young wife, despite the warnings of his advisors. Chaucer uses the dialogue of the characters to explain to Januarie that a young wife will be difficult to keep happy at his age. He makes Januarie exclaim that She shal nat passe twenty yeer, certain Thanne shoulde I lede my lif in avoutrye,/ And go straight to the devel whan I die. Chaucer portrays him as a character envious of youth, so much so that if he cannot have a young wife he will have no choice but to sin. In other words, he must have a young wife for his own moral safety. This is not the image of a strong and powerful knight like Theseus. Januarie fails in the area of courtly love and ends up having his courtship mocked by the Merchant. This not only creates humour in the audiences eyes as we see how dim-witted Januarie really is, but it also creates sympathy for the character as he cannot help how he is portrayed. Another example of the use of satire is the whole incident with Damien, May and Januarie and the adultery issue. One could argue that May does not love Damien any more than she loves January. He could perhaps just be a suitable alternative for May to love. When she receives a love-letter from Damien, she disposes of it in the toilet (privy) which could show this lack of love for him. Therefore, her motivation for adultery could be seen as an action of revenge, as January assaulted May by marrying her, and not out of affection for Damien. This is satire on the whole theme of courtly love. This feeling of revenge on her part is further demonstrated in the cuckold scene. May deceives January in the garden and we, as the audience, cannot blame her for doing so. January built the garden so that he can have May sexually in the way he wants her. She feigns pregnancy and then steps onto Januarys back to have sex with Damien in the tree. She has been stepped on by January and now she gets to do the same to him. When Januarys sight is restored by the Gods, he rightfully accuses her of adultery. In response she acts impertinent and insulted: This thank have I for I have maad yow see/ Allas, quod she, that evere I was so kinde!'. This creates humour as the audience knows that Chaucer is satirising the idea of courtly love and cannot believe that Januarie is so dense that he believes Mays excuse.

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