Chaucer’s Social Realism

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As a perfect chronicler and exponent of his age, Chaucer has presented, with great fidelity, the body and soul of 14th century English society. Compton-Rickett remarks that Chaucer symbolizes the middle ages; he stands in much the same relation to the life of his time as Pope to the 18th century and Tennyson to the Victorian era. The Prologue is an unsurpassed social document of Chaucer’s time and he truly becomes the social chronicler of his time and unfolds the colourful panorama of life which he saw around him. Being a picture gallery of 14th century England his thirty pilgrims represent the various classes of English society. As a realist, Chaucer had the innate instinct to catch within his purview the soul of his generation in all its fullness and its depth. Chaucer’s poetry reflects the chivalric spirit of the medieval times. In The Prologue Chaucer presents the fading chivalry of the middle Ages represented in the person of the Knight. The Knight was a brave warrior and had signalized his chivalric career by fighting in fifteen mortal battles all for the defence of religion and Christian shrines. He was the true symbol of old order of knighthood that was passing away giving place to a new conception of chivalry represented by his son, the Young Squire who inspite of his military exploits was a modern young man full of zest for life. Throughout the day he took delight in singing and playing upon the flute: “Well could he sit a horse and ride, Make songs, joust and dance, draw and writ ” In Chaucer’s Doctor of Physic we have an excellent picture of the medieval medicine man with his herbal remedies and his knowledge of astronomy or what we should call astrology. The medieval theory of disease was that the peculiar combination of stars and planets affected the human body. The standard of sanitation and cleanliness was very low. Though the Doctor had no time...
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