Write a critical note on Chaucer's art of portraiture in The General Prologue.
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Write a critical note on Chancer’s art of portraiture in The General Prologue.

Geoffrey Chaucer was a good observer of people’s behaviour. He was familiar with the human mind before it became a scientific field. It is exemplified in “The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.” In this book, he draws a large number of characters. Every character exemplifies Chaucer’s mastery of characterisation. He develops lifelike characters and paints each one with meticulous attention to detail. In reality, he is well-known for two reasons: first, he is a realist, and second, Chaucer’s characterisation skills are legendary. He uses both of these aspects to create realistic characters.

Chaucer uses beautiful colours in his writings and portrays various people from his time with meticulous attention to detail. He is, indeed, a brilliant painter who works with words rather than colours. Without a doubt, he has The Seeing Eye, a retentive memory, the capacity to choose, and the ability to elucidate. His meticulous attention to the tiniest details of his characters, such as their clothing, appearance, and demeanour, allows him to portray them as real people rather than bloodless abstractions.

His Prologue is a genuine photo gallery, with thirty pictures on the wall, each with its own unique features and quirks. It’s more like a big parade, complete with all the life and movement, colour, and music. Indeed, his characters are morally and socially reflective of English society in genuine and identifiable kinds, and much more so of mankind in general. As a result, the characters in Chaucer’s “The Prologue” are suitable for people of all ages and from all walks of life. Despite the fact that the concept of the Canterbury Tales was based on Giovanni, an Italian poet, Chaucer’s characterisation method is distinct and unique. As a consequence, his characters are not just of his generation, but also global. They are people, not just kinds. The pilgrims represent humanity at its best. The intricacies of their physical appearance, social position, and temperament are so beautifully portrayed that the entire man or woman comes alive before our eyes, making it a real 14th-century picture gallery.

In English literature, Chaucer would be the first brilliant character painter. Chaucer’s thirty portraits provide an outstanding depiction of society at the period. The many pilgrims symbolise various professions. The doctor, the soldier, the Oxford Clerk, and the Friar, for example, each symbolise specific characteristics that define their respective professions. The Knight, the Squire, and the Yeoman symbolise the warlike aspects. Agriculture is typified by ploughmen, Millers, Reeves, and Franklins. The liberal professions are represented by the Sergeant of Law, the Doctor, the Oxford Clerk, and the Poet himself. The Wife of Bath, the Weaver, and the Merchant and Shipman represent industry and trade, respectively. Provisional transactions are represented by a Cook and a Host. The secular clergy are represented by the Poor Person and the Summoner, whereas the monastic communities are portrayed by the Monk, the Prioress, and the Pardoner. Since a result, the characters in the Canterbury Tales are both types and individuals, as each symbolises a certain profession or social class and depicts specific individual traits, complete with their own peculiarities of clothing and speech.


Write a critical note on Chancer’s art of portraiture in The General Prologue.

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The description of each man’s horse, furnishings, and array by Chaucer reads like a memoir page. He explains things in the most natural, kind, and amusing way possible. Although Chaucer’s characters are typical of their trade, they also have characteristics that are unique to them. As a result, his characters stand out among their peers. Because he imbues them with unique characteristics. These characteristics set people apart as individuals. The Shipman, for example, has a beard; the Wife of Bath is ‘Som-del deef’ and ‘gat-toothed;’ the Reeve has long and thin legs; the Miller has “a wart topped by a tuft of hair” on his nose; the Summoner’s face is full of pimples; and the Squire is “as fresshe as the monthe of May”.

In reality, virtually every pilgrim has his or her own approach. He alternates between full-length portraits and thumb-nail drawings, yet even in the sketches, Chaucer communicates a great feeling of personality and portraiture depth. Chaucer does not utilise a theatrical technique; instead, he employs a descriptive and narrative style that is appropriate for the subject of The Canterbury Tales. He, unlike Wycliffe and Langland, has a wide compassion and affection for all of the characters, both good and bad. With Chaucer, we share a feeling of camaraderie. They are proven to have the same characteristics, humours, and behaviours as men and women of various ages throughout the globe. Their characteristics are universal, and although some have changed places, their essence remains the same. In illustrating the travellers’ portraits, Chaucer used the contrast method. Both the good and the evil rub shoulders. The Parson and the Ploughman are paragons of virtue, whereas the Reeve, the Miller, and the Summoner are monsters of vice. Chaucer’s characters, like Shakespeare’s, are three-dimensional, with length, width, and depth. The Wife of Bath and the Monk, for example, are complicated characters. Because of the characteristic aspect in his characterisation, Chaucer has been dubbed an excellent representational poet of his day.

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