Notes and Study Questions on Chaucer's General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Theodore Morrison translation) and the English Language
Chaucer's Writing and the History of the English Language
The introduction to Chaucer in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces (or The Norton Anthology of World Literature) refers to Middle English, and gives a sample of Middle English and a bit of explanation of the sample; all of this brings up the issue of the history of the English language and the place of Middle English in that history. Many people in the United States, ignorant about the history of English (not to mention about the history of their own country), think, mistakenly, that "ye olde coffee shoppe" is Old English. This expression is not Old English, nor was the "ye" ever pronounced with the y sound: both of these errors are part of the too widespread ignorance about history, including the history of the English language. A general rule is, as will be shown, that if most of the words can be recognized, then any given passage is not Old English. At Yale University, all of us graduate students were required to take a year-course in Old English, not only because some of the great works of English literature were written in it (e.g., the wonderful anonymous epic, Beowulf, many times translated into modern English), but also because it is in many respects a foreign language, not too far from German, to which English is a linguistic cousin.
English is a young descendant (450 CE) of the ancient parent language of many of the world's languages, Indo-European (2500-3000 BCE). The language arose somewhere in central Europe, Eastern Europe, or at the juncture of the European and South Asian continents (hence the name Indo-European). As it swept westward and various peoples settled, over a great period of time their language changed into many of the languages recognized by name today: Germanic (German, Dutch -- and a descendant of the Germanic branch, English), Italic (e.g., Latin, Italian, French, Spanish: the "Romance" languages), Hellenic (e.g., ancient Greek and its descendants), and so on. Of course, many of the world's languages were not derived from Indo-European; examples would include the Native American languages (e.g., Cherokee, Navaho, Ojibwa) and Asian languages (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.).
Eventually, these languages developed, in groups, into the Indo-European languages, which may be charted as follows:
Around the same time as Indo-European was developing, so was alphabetic writing, which was to be the ancestor of the modern Roman alphabet used for English. Of course, as with non-Indo-European languages, there are many other fascinating alphabets of the world's languages (e.g., those of Southeast Asia such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai). The following chart gives a timeline of the development of writing:
In ancient times, the trading peoples of the Mediterranean needed an
alphabet for pragmatic, business reasons: to keep business records. The
Phoenicians, the businessmen, par excellence, of the region, evolved the
idea of turning pictograms, pictures of things that represented certain
words, into single letters based on the first sound of the pictogram. Thus,
the symbol in the Mediterranean area, including the Near East, included
one for the ox, that, like almost all letters of the alphabet, derived
from pictures of things (an indication of how important art is to civilization).
The picture of the ox -- simplified to a picture of the ox's head -- looked
like this, especially its most important details, the horns:
The word that the picture indicated was aleph, which meant "ox."
The Phoenicians took the first sound of aleph, a (pronounced
"ah") and assigned it to the picture. But when writing fast, the picture
(1) slanted and (2) lost many of its pictorial details. Eventually it evolved
into our letter A, with the sound a or "ah."
Similarly, the word beth or bayt meant "house," and was a picture for house, the diagram or floor plan of the basic house: a courtyard and a dwelling-room.
The Phoenicians took the first sound of the word beth, the b, and made it the sound for the picture, which over time, again, rotated and lost some of its pictorial detail, along with a joining of one of the lines. The letter of our alphabet -- can you guess where our word alphabet came from?-- that developed was the letter of the alphabet that went from Phoenician to Semitic to Greek to Latin to our modern Roman alphabet and our B. (Many ancient languages at first were written only in capital letters, incidentally; the history of lowercase, or minuscule, along with that of punctuation, is also fascinating, and can be looked up in many books or encyclopedia articles that deal with the history of writing.)
English was not the native language of England, just as American English was not the native language of the United States. The native language of England was some form of Celtic, parallel to the native language of America being forms of Native American or American Indian (e.g., Algonkian, Athabascan, Siouan). Just as Native Americans have left little of their language in the culture of the invading settlers (those funny-sounding place names like Chicago or Wisconsin or Okefenokee; words like teepee, wampum, or pow-wow), so with the Celts in England or Britain. Three main Germanic tribes had settled on the West coast of Europe and up into Scandinavia -- the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes -- prior to 450 CE, as per the following the map:
Then came the fall of the Roman Empire and further sweeping migrations across Europe of further Germanic peoples and tribes, so that the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes were to some extent pushed off the West coast of continental Europe and landed across the English Channel in approximately the same locations they had held on the West coast of continental Europe.
The tribes formed the basis for various dialects of what became Old
The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes forced the natives of the island into
little corners, with the Angles being dominant geographically. Since the
country was often called, after the invasion, the "Angles' land," the origin
of one name for the country, "England," becomes clear. However, modern
scholars prefer the term "Old English" for this language because the dialects
of the settlers did not accord with the somewhat imprecise term "Anglo-Saxon,"
and indeed, there are significant differences between Northumbrian, Mercian,
and West Saxon. A King in the south of England, King Alfred, recognized
that some of the literature being composed in the country should be written
down, and so he encouraged the written preservation of such works as Beowulf
(almost certainly composed by a Northerner, but modified somewhat by the
recording in the Germanic dialect of the South, West Saxon) and "Caedmon's
Hymn," legendarily the first poem written in Old English.
A partial transliteration and translation of the poem is as follows:
Noo shool-yan hair-yan heh-oh-von-reeches waird
Now shall/must we praise heaven-kingdom's warden/guardian
Meh-toh-dehs maychtah ohnd his mohd-ye-thahnk
Measurer's might and his mind's-plan
Old English, the first of the three main segments
of English, lasting from 450 CE to 1100 CE, had a Germanic sound and structure
(the gh of night, might, etc., come from guttural
sounds at the back of the throat that were pronounced, as they are in the
modern German word Nacht, meaning "night"), as well as some letters
no longer current in Modern English: the squished-together ae (technically
called a ligature), named ash and pronounced like that word; the
letter that looks like a p but with the straight line extending
further up than the p, called "thorn" and pronounced like the "th"
in that word; the letter edh, eth, or crossed d, with
a th sound (looks like a d but with a cross slanting through
the upright straight line); and the letter yogh or yok that
looked like a 3 and came from a picture of an ox yoke and
often had the sound of y. The letter
thorn was derived from
a picture of a thorn, and its evolution (including the evolution from writing
with knives on wood to brush on paper, and then in haste) was as follows:
When the printing press arrived in around 1450 CE, printers searched for one of the regular twenty-six letters of the Roman alphabet to represent the letter thorn. They chose the letter y because of how the letter thorn had evolved. So our linguistic ancestors were not cute, quaint, or stupid: the "ye" in "ye olde coffee shoppe" was never pronounced with the y sound but the th sound; the word wasn't ye but was always the. In original printings of the time (usually not reproduced in modern times because too costly to typeset), the vowel or other letter was set over the y to indicate that the letter:
thorn was meant (the word the) and not the letter y
(not the word ye). Those who lived before the twentieth or twenty-first
century were not stupid (as often unconsciously assumed by moderns), so that
they weren't displaying a quaint ignorance by pronouncing the "y" in
"ye" in what some modern persons might assume was a humorously
backward way. IQ's haven't gone up individually from ancient
times to now: any smart person or genius of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the
Middle Ages, or Renaissance, etc., would be
equal in IQ to any modern smart person or genius.
A rapid change happened to Old English starting in 1100 that rapidly transformed it into Middle English, the English of Chaucer that is reproduced in a sample in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces (or Norton Anthology of World Literature) introduction and is much more recognizable to readers of modern English. What happened was that English ceased, again, from being the official language (for politics and culture) of England from 1100 to 1450 CE as a result of the invasion and conquering and settlement of the Norman French, whose climactic victory was at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 CE. For several centuries, Old English was left to the relatively uneducated and uncultured, and was not retarded from change by writings and scholarship, because the cultured native speakers of English wanted to get ahead by learning and speaking French. Consequently, the first line of Chaucer's General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales is much more intelligible to the modern reader of English ("Whan that Aprille with his showres sote") than the first line of "Caedmon's Hymn" ("Nu sculon herian heofon-rices Weard").
Ironically, what happened in around the fifteenth century was that the Norman French had been in England so long that they forgot their own language, French, and increasingly turned to the language of the country they had conquered and partially settled. Thus English re-emerged, around the time of the invention of the printing press, much changed and officially, for language historians, in the period of Modern English, though this period can be subdivided. Consequently, by the time of "ye olde coffee shoppe," the language is Modern English, not Old English.
Chaucer's importance in cultural and English or British history is not only literary but linguistic. The quickly-recognized merit of his poetic works, as well as the fact that he was based in the political center of power, London, helped make his English, the East Midland dialect of Middle English, the standard English of his time and the basis of standard modern English. On the next page will be found a dialect map of Middle English.
To summarize, the three main periods of the English
language are as follows:
Old English: 450 - 1100 CE
Middle English: 1100 - 1450 CE
Modern English: 1450 - the present
As with books or encyclopedias about the general history of language or writing, fine and often entertaining books and articles have been written about the history of English -- and the history of American English, as well.
Chaucer and Art
There are implications about the visual arts in Chaucer's
General Prologue and Miller's Tale (e.g., the description of the Miller
in the General Prologue, right down to the little red hairs growing out
of a wart on his nose), and in the structure of the Canterbury Tales,
which more than one literary scholar has noted resemble the medieval cathedral.
For example, Robert Jordan in Chaucer and the Shape of Creation: The
Aesthetic Possibilities of Inorganic Structure (Harvard UP, 1967) says that
"both for medieval and for modern reasons . . . an analogy exists between
Chaucer's art and that of the Gothic builders. . . . Chaucerian narrative
structure testifies that the poet to a considerable extent treated his materials
as 'inorganic' building units analogous to the sections and subsections of a
Gothic floor plan or an elevation. The typical Chaucerian narrative is . . .
'built' of inert, self-contained parts, collocated in accordance with the
additive, reduplicative principles which characterize the Gothic edifice. In the
Canterbury Tales . . . the iconographic function of the whole, the
ultimate pointing toward God, adds a further architectonic dimension
characteristic of the Gothic" (pp. xi-xii).
Further, the very printing of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales has evoked the visual arts, first in hand-copied and illustrated manuscripts, and then in books reproduced by the early printing press. (Manuscript "illumination" is discussed and reproduced in Ch. 11 ["Pagans, Christians, and Jews"; text box: "Medieval Manuscript Illumination" and chapter subsection: "Luxury Arts / Illuminated Manuscripts"], Ch. 16 ["Carolingian Art"; subsection: "The Art of the Book"], Ch. 17 ["The Age of Pilgrims and Crusaders: Romanesque Art"; subsection: "Manuscript Illumination"], and Ch. 18 ["The Age of the Great Cathedrals: Gothic Art"; subsection: "Book Illumination and Luxury Arts"] of Gardner's Art Through the Ages -- or Chapter 16 ["Gothic Art"] of Stokstad's Art History [3rd ed.]). One of the definitive manuscripts of Chaucer's works is the Ellesmere manuscript, produced about 1410 and taking its name from a collection done for, among others, Baron Ellesmere in the time of James I. For a beautiful reproduction of one of the pages from this manuscript, which shows both the beautiful writing (calligraphy) and a depiction of Chaucer himself as one of the pilgrims, click here. From the fifteenth century through the twentieth century, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales has been illustrated by important artists, including William Blake (about whom students will learn much more in Humanities 2002/World Humanities II) and Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones did his illustrations for the edition of Chaucer's works produced by the important artist and writer William Morris in 1896; to see an illustration of the Knight's Tale, the first of the Canterbury Tales, after the General Prologue, which depicts two rivals who are imprisoned and mooning after their beloved, click here.
Chaucer and Music
genre of music in the Middle Ages is the pilgrimage song, and the whole
framework of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is set up, in the General
Prologue, to be a series of a huge number of works contained in the pilgrimage
to Canterbury cathedral. Also, there are important implications about music
in Chaucer's General Prologue and Miller's Tale. In the General Prologue,
several of the pilgrims are involved in music, able to play a musical instrument
(instrumental music) or sing (vocal music) or both (instrumental and vocal
music). What kinds of music these pilgrims are involved in and their
motivations for involvement in music suggest important ideas, which are
echoed in the Miller's Tale and in chapter 4 of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible.
The liveliness of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales has inspired not only a Broadway musical but also several compositions of art, classical, or concert music. Under the title The Canterbury Pilgrims, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford produced an opera in three acts, with libretto by G.A. A'Beckett, in London, in 1884; de Koven produced an opera in four acts, with libretto by MacKaye, in New York, in 1917; and George Dyson produced a cantata in 1931 (also produced in 1946 under the title At the Tabard Inn).
The Rock artist
Sting alludes to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which includes not only a
portrait of a Summoner but also the Summoner's Tale, in his album or CD Ten
Summoner's Tales; in addition, a track from the album such as
Stronger Than Justice" uses the rhymed-couplet verse form of Chaucer, and
has the irony and satire characteristic of much of the General Prologue
and The Canterbury Tales. (A further allusive irony in the title of
Sting's album has to do with what Sting's real name is.)
Chaucer and the Movies
Not A Knight's Tale (2001)! Chaucer's life was nothing like that portrayed in the film. However, fine films, with some historical or cultural accuracy, would include Becket (1964), based on a play of the same title by important French writer Jean Anouilh (about the martyr whose church to which the Canterbury Pilgrims are journeying); The Lion in Winter (1968), screenplay by the writer who wrote the original play (a follow-up of the King who was best friends with Thomas Becket, yet suggested the murder of Becket, now Archbishop of Canterbury, which took place in Becket's own Canterbury Cathedral; also the subject of the play Murder in the Cathedral by the great twentieth-century poet and critic T.S. Eliot); and The Name of the Rose(1986), based on the novel of the same title, written by medieval expert and literary critic Umberto Eco (about the monastic life, mentioned prominently in Chaucer's General Prologue as well as in some of the separate Tales).
Translations and Modernizations of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
Several translations into modern English are available of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and one would be well worth owning and reading by readers liking the selections in the NAWM (especially non-English majors; English majors may be referred to the well-annotated editions in the Middle English by Albert Baugh, or Larry Benson, or E. Talbot Donaldson, or John Fisher):
Burrell, Arthur, ed. Chaucer's
Canterbury Tales for the Modern Reader. Everyman Library, 1908, 1910.
Coghill, Nevil, ed. and trans. [Geoffrey Chaucer:] The Canterbury Tales, Translated into Modern English. Penguin Books, 1951, 1958,
Farjeon, Eleanor, ed. and trans. Tales from Chaucer. 1930, 1932, 1934, 1948.
Glaser, Joseph, ed. and trans. The Canterbury Tales in Modern Verse [Selected and Translated]. Hackett, 2005.
Hieatt, A. Kent, and Constance Hieatt, eds. and trans. Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales. Bantam Books, 1964.
Hill, Frank, trans. [Chaucer:] Canterbury Tales: Rendered into Modern English Verse. 1935, 1946.
Hitchins, H.L. Canterbury Tales: Chaucer for Present Day Readers. J. Murray, 1946.
Lumiansky, R.M. The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer: A New Modern English Prose Translation. 1948, 1954; rpt. Washington
Square Press - Pocket Books, 1971.
Morrison, Theodore, ed. and trans. The Portable Chaucer. Rev. ed. 1949; Penguin Books, 1975, 1977. [Basis of the NAWM selections.]
Nicolson, J.U., trans. The Canterbury Tales Rednered into Modern English. 1934, 1935, 1936, 1943, 1950.
Tatlock, John, and Percy Mackaye, trans. Complete Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Macmillan, 1912. Also published as Modern
Reader's Chaucer, 1914 (rpt. 1926, 1938, 1943, 1951). (Abridged edition of the above by Carl Ziegler, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
Van Wyck, William. Canterbury Tales: Translated into Modern English Verse. Covici, Friede, 1928. (Also published as The Canterbury
Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer with a Version in Modern English Verse. Covici, Friede, 1930.)
Wright, David, ed. and trans. [Geoffrey Chaucer:] The Canterbury Tales: A Prose Version in Modern English. Random House - Vintage
Wright, David, ed. and trans. [Geoffrey Chaucer:] The Canterbury Tales: A Verse Translation. Oxford World's Classics - Oxford UP, 1986.
[The most easily available of the
translations or modernizations are those by Coghill, Glaser, Hieatt, Morrison,
Notes and Questions on Chaucer's General Prologue
The selections from Chaucer in NAWM, with the exception of a brief sample of the original Middle English in the introduction to Chaucer, are from one of the several fine translations (some in verse, some in prose) into modern English of Chaucer's works, including not only The Canterbury Tales but also some of Chaucer's other major works as well. Both his poetry and his stories are entertaining as well as literarily excellent and could and should be enjoyed by greater numbers of modern readers than are aware of them.
The fine translation by Theodore Morrison included in NAWM is in print, in paperback, and echoes in its translation Chaucer's primary verse form, the rhymed couplet (though Chaucer did not exclusively use this verse form, and indeed used prose in some instances). First lines that are inset or indented indicate the use, as in Chaucer's original Middle English, of verse paragraphs, another element of some poetry.
Supplementary annotation to the General Prologue that should have been supplied in notes to the NAWM selection. The both the "green" (line 101) and "horn" (line 113) of the Yeoman were accessories of those involved in hunting. When the Monk refers to a "that text . . . / Which says that hunters are not holy men" (lines 174-75) , he refers to the interpretation in the Middle Ages of Genesis 10:9; the passage mentions the mighty hunter Nimrod, just before the Tower of Babel episode, and some interpreters associated the two. Chaucer refers to the Friar being unsurpassed in gallantry by any other friar "in all four orders" (line 206): these are the Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans. The Augustinians (the "Austin" canons or friars) were called "the black canons" from their dress; the Carmelites, from their dress, were called "the white friars"; the Dominicans, from their dress, were called "the black friars"; the Franciscans, from their dress, were called "the grey friars." A comprehensive list of monastic orders, including the "mendicant" ("begging") orders (often one of the orders of friars) would include, beside those already referred to, the following: Benedictine monks; Brigittines; Carthusian monks; Celestines; Cistercian monks; Cluniac monks; Gilbertines; Poor Clares; Premonstratensian canons; Tironensian monks; Trinitarian friars; and the Trappist monks. The Oxford Student (lines 281-304) would have been studying, as would all students in college pursuing a degree, to go into the Church. The Five Guildsmen (lines 355-370) as well as the Woman or Wife of Bath (lines 433-464) represent the rise of the middle class by way of prosperity from the cloth trade, which contributed strongly to the British economy in the Middle Ages. The Physician (lines 399-432), according to standard European medical practice in the Middle Ages relies on astrology and gold as part of his doctoring; the patient's horoscope was cast to determine the best time of day, day of the week, and month of the year to administer medicine or surgery; gold, since it was the highest and purest of the metals (related to the medieval concept of hierarchy in all spheres), was thought to enable purifying of the patient when in powder form mixed with the medicine. The reference to the Miller, like other millers, having "a golden thumb" (line 548) may refer to the barter economy of many countries until the eighteenth century or later. Farmers would bring the Miller grain (corn, wheat) which he would grind into powder using the millstone in his mill (a reference to these details occurs much later in literature when Don Quixote in Cervantes' novel of this name attacks a windmill, one of the forms a mill took, using natural power). The Miller would then take part of the product (flour, corn meal) as his payment, using a scale to weigh out the portions; in this process is where his thumb might be golden, in a satiric sense, in manipulating the weighing scales. The Summoner (lines 605-650) and Pardoner (lines 651-726) both held clerical offices, the former issuing summons to appear in an ecclesiastical court, the latter by issuing pardons for persons doing penance; both offices presented opportunities for extortion of bribes, part of the abuses that Dante and Chaucer condemned, as part of what would become the Reformation.
GP1. In which sets of lines, from 41-744, is each of the thirty pilgrims mentioned and described in the text? Your format should like the following:
1. Knight (41-75)
2. ------------------ (XX-XX)
3. ------------------ (XX-XX)
- - - - - - - - - -
29. "Chaucer" (=fictional character) (XX-XX)
30. Host (727-44)
This listing will be a valuable study guide and index to the General Prologue. Chaucer the narrator should be distinguished from the character Chaucer who appears and "speaks" in the Canterbury Tales; the latter is often foolish or naive (how is he portrayed this way in connection with the passage dealing with the Monk?), implicitly criticized or satirized by Chaucer the narrator or author standing behind this and other characters, and what they say or do in the Tales.
GP2. Four key concepts in the Middle Ages or Medieval period are feudalism, hierarchy (both in politics or the social system, as well as an emphasis on neat, orderly systems or systemization), deemphasis of the individual, and otherwordliness and deemphasis of the physical (cf. Hobbs and Duncan 259-60, 303). Chaucer, as a transitional figure between the end of the period and the beginning of the Renaissance, sometimes embodies these concepts or values (including in the General Prologue) while other times embodying opposite concepts or values. (a) In what passages does Chaucer embody straight Medieval concepts or values? (E.g., where does he criticize certain of the pilgrims for two much worldliness and physicality?) (b) In what passages does Chaucer embody Renaissance Christian Humanism? (E.g., how does Chaucer concentrate on individuals, individuality, this world, and the physical in the General Prologue?)
GP3. Part of the change or transition from the Medieval to Renaissance world was economic (economics and money have been just as important in the past and to individuals in the past as they are to people today). (a) How does Chaucer portray the rise of the middle class in the General Prologue? What effects must this social mobility have on the Medieval concept of a frozen hierarchy? (b) How does Chaucer show or imply, with several of the pilgrims in the General Prologue, the importance of the cloth trade to the new prosperity in England (including details connected with the Woman or Wife of Bath)? What effects on the individuals, as implied in specific passages in the General Prologue, has this new prosperity had?
GP4. How do both the imagery and sentence structure ("As soon as . . . when . . . when . . . then . . . " -- all interrelated through subordinate/dependent and main/independent clauses in one sentence, technically called a "periodic sentence") of lines 1-12 suggest or imply that forces or motivations other than religion and piety prompt or stir the pilgrims to make their trip? (How is it generally true that a person's motives for doing something are often mixed? How has it been true in your life?)
GP5. Why is the season, particularly with reference to the imagery by which it is described in lines 1-11, especially relevant to the mission as formulated in line 18?
GP6. What pun* is there on the word inspired in line 6? Look up the etymology and all possible meanings of the word in your collegiate dictionary.
GP7. How does the name of the inn (line 19) foreshadow* Chaucer's emphasis on "array" (39), the conflict among the pilgrims that emerges along their journey and in their tales, and the identity of the first pilgrim described at length?
GP8. What does the width of the inn's stable doors (28) have to do with anything?
GP9. What tone*, mood, or ideas may be suggested by the metaphor* or periphrasis* for sunset in line 30 (i.e., the effect of Chaucer's words rather than "at sunset" or some comparable phrase)? (Cf. Homer's periphrasis and epic formula for sunrise in the Odyssey, as in II.1-2 [NAWM6 1:220; NAWM5 1:85].)
GP10. (a) What do the various details of his or her "array," which Chaucer the narrator goes out of his way in line 39 to tell us he'll report, reveal, and how, about each pilgrim? (b) How are some pilgrims thematically linked, compared, or contrasted (e.g., the Monk, Prioress, and the Merchant) by details of clothing or "array"? (c) How is clothing or "array" just as revealing today about personality, beliefs, values, etc. as it was in Chaucer's time? (Apply this latter question to yourself and everyone you know, except your Humanities literature professor.)
GP11. (a) How does Chaucer use details about hair, coiffure, or beard to reveal facets of individual pilgrims, as well as implicitly compare or contrast the pilgrims? (b) How are these details just as revelatory today? (Apply this latter question to yourself and everyone you know, except your Humanities literature professor.)
GP12. (a) How are various pilgrims implicitly compared or contrasted with one another? (E.g., how are the Knight and Knight's son contrasted, the Squire and Prioress, the Merchant and Oxford Student, the Monk or Friar with the Parson?) (b) How does Chaucer use juxtaposition* or the order in which he describes the pilgrims to do this?
GP13. The fine arts (painting, sculpture, music, architecture) constantly appear as a theme or motif* in literature. Which one recurs as a motif in Chaucer's General Prologue, and what does it help convey about any of the pilgrims?
GP14. What do the repeated words or images of glass, game, gold, "smart," and weapons reveal about any of the pilgrims' personalities or values, as well as about the fourteenth century (compared or contrasted with today)?
GP15. How, like Boccaccio's Decameron (excerpts of which are also included in NAWM), do the excerpts from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales help show the work's frame structure? For example, how does the material on the Miller in The General Prologue interact with the material on the Miller's later interchanges (just before he tells his tale) with the Host, Knight, and Reeve, and likewise, how does all this material interact with the material of the Miller's Tale itself? A diagram might look like the following:
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
GP16. (The Knight) (a) How does Chaucer's order or hierarchy, through beginning with the Knight rather than the Monk or Prioress, suggest the late Medieval or early Renaissance period, rather than the early or middle Medieval period? What transition is showing? (b) What does the synecdoche* for service in line 46 ("had gripped his horse's reins" = "had served") help suggest, express, or communicate about the Knight's personality or nature? (b) What antithesis does Chaucer imply through the word "despite" in lines 65-66? How is this antithesis usually true, but not about the Knight? (c) How does his array suggest the Knight's diligence, action-orientation, devotion, piety, and concentration on important essences of things (rather than superficial appearance or appearances)?
GP17. (The Squire) (a) How does the Squire's "array" contrast with his father's, and what is suggested thereby? (b) How does the imagery in line 87-96, associated with the Squire, recall the imagery in lines 1-12, and what is thereby suggested about the personality, temperament, and behavior of the Squire (and young people, generally)? (c) Besides contrasts, what similarities are implied between the Squire and his father, the Knight?
GP18. (The Yeoman) (a) How is the yeoman's array both similar to and different from both the Knight's array and Squire's array? What personality traits and behavior of the Yeoman are suggested or implied through these similarities and differences? (b) How does the Yeoman's coiffure contrast with the Squire's, revealing what differences between the two characters? (c) How does Chaucer's description of the Yeoman's equipment (including how much space and emphasis in the passage it receives) suggest a greater affinity with the Knight than the Squire? (d) How does the Yeoman's jewelry in his array contrast with that of the Prioress and Monk, suggesting Chaucer the narrator's implicit commendation of the Yeoman and censure of the Prioress and Monk?
GP19. (The Prioress) (a) How does the passage dealing with the Prioress tend to focus on superficial and external things (including lines 119-21)? What defect or defects might Chaucer the narrator be suggesting through this emphasis?