Geoffrey Chaucers Use of Sarcasm to Describe His Characters

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  • Topic: The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, The Manciple's Tale
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  • Published : February 27, 2005
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Geoffrey Chaucers use of sarcasm to describe his characters.

Geoffrey Chaucer used sarcasm to describe his characters in "The Canterbury Tales." It will point out details that are seen in the book that help explain how he used this sarcasm to prove a point and to teach life lessons sometimes. I will also point out how this sarcasm was aimed at telling the reader his point of view about how corrupt the Catholic Church was. Chaucer uses an abundance of sarcasm, as opposed to seriousness, to describe his characters in "The Canterbury Tales."

Chaucer did not begin working on "The Canterbury Tales" until he was in his early 40s. Chaucer took his narrative inspiration for his works from several sources but still remained an entirely individual poet, gradually developing his personal style and techniques. (Wallace 293) "The Canterbury Tales" was written by Chaucer during the late fourteen hundreds. This book tells about a pilgrimage by around thirty people, who are going, in April, to the shrine of the martyr, St. Thomas Becket. On the way, they amuse themselves by telling stories. These stories are called tales. Chaucer never really got to finish the book because he died about five or six years after starting it. So as you read this report and maybe the book, you can see that he probably would have went along with Martin Luther and criticized the Catholic Church in the same ninety eight or so on years. So maybe, just maybe, this book isn't even half way done, even though it is like a stab in the back of the Catholic Church. (Morrison 41)

Chaucer uses sarcasm to describe Phoebus, in the Manciple's tale.
"Phoebus had a wife, whom he loved more dearly than his own life, and guarded her with the greatest protection possible. He knew that he must let a free spirit fly like any other caged animal, but he made sure to keep her closed in and guarded at all times." (187)

However Phoebus' wife had a secret lover. One day when Phoebus went out of town on business, his wife sent for her lover and made passionate love with him. The crow witnessed this event but kept quiet. (188)

When Phoebus returned home the crow revealed that his wife had betrayed him and gave ample proof to substantiate the charge. Phoebus was heart-broken and in a fury killed his wife. (188)
Now, you can see the sarcasm in this tale already by looking at the way he said "free spirit" and then "caged animal" to describe her. One of these statements is not true and is just another sarcastic remark. At first, the reader can't tell if Phoebus really cares and watches over her or if he just doesn't care at all. But, as you read on, you can obviously tell that he did really care and probably tried to watch over her as much as he could. But Chaucer once again uses sarcasm to get his point across. And that point is that no matter how much we try to control a person, who has free will, they will always have their own thoughts and opinions, or in this case, feelings. So Chaucer used a sarcastic way of saying that Phoebus tried to guard her like she was a caged animal, and keep her locked up, but she still found a way to do what she wanted to do because nobody can be watched and controlled like a caged animal. Their will always be free will.

Chaucer uses sarcasm, once again, this time to describe the Summoner.
There lived a limiter in Holderness, a marshy region in Yorkshire, who used to go around preaching to people and begging for alms. (95)
"He was a drunkard who did nothing but scream in Latin and kids were scared of him." (95)
"There was no better fellow in all the lands" (96)
The sarcasm in this tale is not hard to see either, when you see that the narrarator said that he was a drunkard and that kids hated him, but then says that there was no better guy in the world. Chaucer is saying that he was a drunk and that he probably hit or raped little kids. And he also says that this man was a preacher, who begged. Obviously Chaucer is taking a...
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