16 Jan 2020

Chaucer s' Canterbury Tales as Mirror to Middle Ages English Society

Canterbury Tales as Mirror to English Society

The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales is a wonderful commentaryتبصرہ upon English life in the Middle Ages. Dryden has beautifully said that Chaucer must have been a man of a most wonderful receptiveشاندار nature because he has taken into the sphereدائرہ کار of his Canterbury Tales the same manners and humours of the whole English nation in his age. Not a single character is devoid ofمحروم it. Leguois says, "Chaucer,is truly the social historian and analyzerتجزیہ نگار of England at the end of fourteenth century. 

What he has given is a direct transcriptionتحریری شکل of daily life, taken in the very act, and in its most familiar aspects." The fact is that Chaucer had firsthand knowledge of the current English society of his time. His keen observationمُشاہدہ, vast study, extensive وسیعtravel and variegatedتنوع والا experience in the service of the state had acquaintedشناسا کر دیا him with the entire panorama of social life of those days. And perhaps it was with the intention of describing his unlimited knowledge of men and manners that he devisedایجاد کیا the plan of the Canterbury Tales which surrounds every aspect of life in the fourteenth century England. The group of pilgrims mentioned in the Prologue is itself an matchlessلاثانی picture of the Society of Chaucer's time. 

There are some thirty persons belonging to the most different classes. There is a Knightنواب recently come from the foreign wars, a man who has fought in Prussia and in Turkey, jousted in Tramisene, and been present at the storming of Alexandriaسکندریہ. He is a high-minded gentle-mannered, knightly adventurer, type of the courteous, war loving chivalryبہادری and bravery which was passing rapidly away. With him is his son, a young Squire, curly haired and gay, his short, white-sleeved gown embroidered like a pasture having red-and-white flowers. He is a paragon of the gifts and graces of brilliant youth. 

The servant of them is a Yeoman, in coat and hoof of a green, a sheaf of peacock-arrows under his belt, a mighty bow in his hand, and a silver image of Saint Christopher upon his breast. He is the type and representativeنمایندہ of that sturdy English yeomanry which with its gray goose shafts humbled the pride of France at Crecy and Agincourt. There is a whole group of ecclesiasticalچرچ کے مُتعلق figures, representing in their numbers and variety the diverse activities of the medieval church. Most of them are satiricalتنقیدی portraits, in their worldliness and materialismمادہ پرستی only too faithfully representative of the ecclesiastical abuses against which Wycliffe struggled. First of all is Monk, who cares only for hunting and good cheer. 

His bald head shines like glass, his bright eyes roll in his head. He rides a sleek brown palfrey, and has "many a dainty نفیسhorse" in his stables. His sleeves are nicely cut with fine fur at the wrists; his hood is fastened under his chin with a gold love-knot. As a companion figure to the hunter Monk, Chaucer gives us "Madame Eglantyne," the Prioress. She is a teacher of young ladies who speaks French "after the school of Stratford-atte-bowe." is exquisite in her table-manners, counterfeiting as well as she can the stately behaviour of court.
Other ecclesiasticsپادری are there, hangers-on and caterpillars of the church. The Friar, intimateقریب with hospitableمہمان نواز franklins, innkeepers, and respectable women, hates beggars and poor sick persons. The Summoner is a hateful person with "fire-red cherubim face". The Pardoner "come from Rome all note" has a bag full of pardons which he sells as relics of the holy saints to overtusting people. Chaucer's treatment of these corrupted churchmen is highly good-natured and tolerant. He never takes the tone of moral humiliation against them.

Chaucer paints the character of the Parson, poor in this world's goods, but "rich of holy thought and work," with loving and reverentمودب touch. The Parson's brother travels with hint—a Plowman, a "true swinker and a good", who helps his poor neighbours without hire and loves them as himself. He makes us remind of Piers the Plowman, in the wonderful Vision which is the antitype of Chaucer's work. A crowd of other figures fill the panorama. 

There is a shipman from the west-country, a representative of those adventurousمُہم جو seamen, half merchant-sailors, half smugglers and piratesسمندری ڈاکو, who had already made England's name a terror on the seas and paved the way for her future naval and commercial supremacyبرتری. Here is a poor Clerk of Oxford, riding a horse as lean as a rake, and dressed in old and threadbareپُرانا cloakچوغہ, who spends all that he can beg or borrow upon his studies. He typifies that passion for learning which was already astir everywhere in Europe, and which was awaking only the magic touch of the new-found classical literature to blossom out into genuine thought and imagination. There is a Merchant, in a Flemish beaver hat, on a high horse, concealing, with the grave importance of his air, the fact that he is in debt. 

There is a group of guild-members, in the livery of their guild, all worthy to be aldermen; together with the merchant, they represent the mercantile and manufacturing activity which was lifting England rapidly to the rank of a great commercialکاروباری power. Then there is the Wife of Bath, almost a modern feminist figure, conceived with masterly humor and realism, a permanent human type. She has had "husbands five at church-door, "and though" somdel deaf," hopes to live to wed several others. She rides on an ambler, with spurs and scarlet hose on her feet, and on her head a hat as broad as a buckler. These and a dozen other characters are all painted in vivid colours and with a psychological truth which remind us of the portraits of the Flemish painter, Van Eyck, Chaucer's contemporary. 

Taken as a whole the dramatis personae of the Prologue represent the complete range of English society in the fourteenth century, with exception of the highest aristocracy and the lowest order of villains or serfs. Apart from the men and their manners, the Prologue also throws light on contemporary clothing, food and occupations. Almost every character whether man or woman is in a typical dress and other personal array. Many of the pilgrims are conspicuously واضح طور پر armed, others carry small items of equipmentسامان, like a silken purse or a pouch or a pair of sharp spurs or a musical instrument. Chaucer uses the details of dressing and other outfit not only to describe the pilgrim's appearance but also to throw further light on his or her character. 

Thus the Wife of Bath, with her desire to be the first wife in her parish, becomes even more amusingly provincial when we read of her heavy Sunday-best cover chiefs which were at least twenty years out of fashion by the time Chaucer was writing. The brooch of the Prioress bearing the motto Amor Vinci: annia indicates that this nun has a character vacillating ڈگمگانا between secularدُنیاوی and divine love. Chaucer's description of the pilgrimsزائرین and their food varies a great deal. We mere hear that the Knight on his campaigns had often "the bond bigonne," that the Squire "cart before his fader" at the table, and that the Prioress had beautiful table manners, never slobbered, and liked to feed her little dogs on bread and milk. The Monk loved hunting and apparantly ate venison and game. His special dish was a roast fat swan, a delicacyنزاکت usually eaten only by kings, Abbots, and such folk. We are not told that the Friar had any especially favourite dish, but instead of minglingملنا جُلنا with the poor, like St. Francis, he loved taverns and tapsters, and all "sellers of vitaille." The Summoner loved garlicادرک, onions, leeks, and strong blood-red wine. This cheerful taste no doubt accounted for his bad, incurable complexion. 

The Cleric of Oxford quite frankly preferred books to food, and economized in order to add to his library. But the Franklin was a real epicureلزیز کھانوں کا شوقین. Franklin s’ bread and ale were always first class, and his house was never without baked meats of both fish and flesh. He stored meat and drink in his house, and he had all seasonable dainties provided, partridges, breamتازہ مھچلی, pike, with suitable sauces. He kept practically open house, and was severeسخت with his cook if the flavouringذایقہ of his dishes was not absolutely to his taste. The Cook who accompanied the party was the sort of man employed by a City company or at an Innسرائے of Court or by an innkeeper. He was an expert, and could boil chickens and marrow bones, and cook well-flavoured tarts. 

He appreciated London ale, and could mast, seethe, boil, and fry and was a successful maker of meat-pies and blanc-mange. The list of the Cook's capabilities gives us a good idea of the scope of entertainmentتواضع possible for people of comfortable means, and a good deal of this variety could be gained at biggish inns on well-known highways and in large towns. Of contemporaryہم عصر crafts, trades and professions, being so variously represented, we gain much valuable knowledge from the Prologue. As it has been already pointed out, only the royal court and the higher nobility are not represented as they would not join a common pilgrimage then. A critic has remarked that sometimes the picturesqueتصویری similes which Chaucer uses to explain a point reveal glimpses of fourteenth-century life. 

They also show how much closer town and country were at that time. There are word-pictures involving, for example animals and flowers, or tools and instruments used on the land, all of which would be perfectly familiar even to the cultured members of Chaucer's audience in the heart of London. Moreover, details of county pursuits like forestry or farming show that Chaucer himself was as much at home in the country as among the trades and professions of the town.

It needs be underlined here that Chaucer has made a direct transcription from common life; and, since ordinary things and common people are the most representativeنمائندہ, he has provided an valuable document for those who wish to call up the social life of the time. But Chaucer does not attempt to historical contemporary events, nor concern himself with politics or public questions. He lived in stirring time; he had fought under Edward III in the wars with France; he had seen England devastated by the Black Death; he had seen the Peasants' Revoltبغاوت. It was a time of unrest both at home and abroad. The English Court was divided into factions دھڑوں "by the struggles between the great nobles who surrounded the King. The Church was being attacked by Wycliffe and his followers for her abuses misrule. 

The contemporary poems of Lang-land and of Gower are MI of political satire upon the social evils of their times. But the poet Chaucer, like his pilgrims, is more interested in his own concerns and in his neighbours than in the King and his favourites, in wars, or in civil and religious questions. His characters, like the majority of people in all time, are wrappedاُلجھا ہونا up in their own affairs, and untroubled by the storms around them, except insofar as their private interests are touched. 

Nevertheless, they are distinctiveنمایاں of their time and country. The Yeoman with his great bow and well-trimmed arrows calls up the English archers who played so redoubtable a part at Crecy and at Poictiers. The Knight stands for the finest chivalry of the Crusades. Above all the clergy are characteristic of their time. Here, Chaucer painted from the life, are the actual men whose vices and corruption Wycliffe and his followers denounced so vehemently.

Finally, it must be borne in mind that as a painter of his society Chaucer acts more as a poet and artist than as a chronicler. His treatment of English men and manners of the fourteenth Century is not as a social reformer but as a tolerant humanist and his attitude of toleration carries more conviction than the denunciation of a moralist.

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