Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Chaucer's Satire and Irony


Satire Reveals Chaucer's Outlook

Chaucer was a man of catholic (tolerant) spirit, so his natural bent of mind was towards humour, not towards satire. If humour is genial and sympathetic, satire is pungent and bitter.

Chaucer's satire is mainly directed against religious corruption. The satirical tone is always present in the characters of the Monk, the Friar, the Prioress, the Pardoner, and the Summoner.

Chaucer's contemporary William Langland was a vehement satirist against the church as an institution. But Chaucer's primary aim is to provide entertainment to his readers and not to correct the corruption of his age.
A satirist has always the intention of teaching or ridiculing but Chaucer, though always ready to criticize, has no such aims. As he takes things tolerantly, therefore his criticism is both good-humoured and kind-hearted.

Some Expressions Containing Satire

·   The Monk disregarded the Biblical rules that hunters are not holy men.
·   The Friar was the best beggar in his jurisdiction.
·   The Summoner's face frightened the children.

Chaucer's Irony

Most of Chaucer's characters are not what they ought to be.
Firstly the whole conception of the Prioress is based on irony. The description of her physical beauty and dress suggested that she is the heroine of some romance, though she is a religious figure. The irony is highlighted by the conflict between appearance and reality.

Secondly, the Monk, who had deserted his ecclesiastical duties, has been ironically presented as a lover of horse-riding and hare-hunting.

Thirdly, Chaucer's irony is crystal clear when he remarks that the Lawyer was the busiest man in England. Chaucer's remarks about the Doctor of Physic are equally ironical.

The use of the world “Worthy” for the most unworthy characters brings a tickling irony except for the “Worthy” Knight.

Chaucer ridiculed folly and hypocrisy but he was never fierce or bitter in his attitude. Chaucer's preference lay not in the use of satire but in the handling of the delicate weapon of irony.