Chaucer’s method of characterization | Write a note on Chaucer’s Characterization | Chaucer as a universal poet of human nature

Chaucer’s method of characterization | Write a note on Chaucer’s Characterization | Chaucer as a universal poet of human nature

Chaucer’s method of characterization

Introduction –

Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales has been hailed as a picture gallery by Smith and as a human comedy by Kitterdge. Dryden found in his characters “God’s Plenty”. Lowes and other critics of Chaucer have admired the originality of Chaucer characters. In fact, in “The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales” we find a large variety of characters Bentink Smith has observed “Prologue is a picture gallery, the first and finest specimen, we have in English literature of the literature of characters”. Professor Lowes says, “Chaucer’s ultimate glory is not his finished craftsmanship but power by virtue of which he creates thorough speech and action, living characters. William Blake is of the opinion that “As Newton numbered the stars and as limaius numbered the planets so Chaucer numbered the classes of men”.

In Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, we find a cross-section of the whole of the 14th Century society of England. Here we meet with the characters like the Knight, the Square, the Prioress, the Merchant, the Monk, the Friar, etc. Chaucer’s characters are of two type. They are individuals as well as types. Chaucer individualized his characters by this peculiar dresses, speeches, habits, manners and physical features. While his characters are type because they belong to a particular group of society, they are symbols of their profession. As his knight is a typed character because he belonged to the world of Chivalry where as he is individualized by his dresses and his weaknesses of his behaviour. he puts his perkin of fustion and rides on a good horse. The character yeoman individualized by his peculiar head and his brown visage, his sword, buckles and dagger. All of his characters are types as well as individuals. Whether he was the Franklin, the Man of Law, the Doctor of Physic or The Prioress etc.

Chaucer is the mighty poet of human heart. He has the accurate knowledge of human psychology. He succeeds in his characterization only because of his unerring observation. He has seeing eye, the retentive memory. He is very well chooser. Among the Pilgrims he was attracted by external qualities the characters as well as by the internal qualities. Chaucer is famous for the variety and universality of his characters. He has portrayed almost all types of people except the very high and the very low. His characters represent the whole humanity. They are also universal and alive even today. It is only because of this quality that Dryden remarks that “here is God’s plenty”.

There is also the touch of humour and irony in his characterization in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. He ridiculed the very dresses and the fashionable manners of the characters. The other most important features of his characterization are his realism. Chaucer only wrote what he has seen in the society. He looks at his characters objectively with intellect, detachment and penetration. He is akin to Shakespeare and Fielding in this respect. He gives the equal importance to all his characters. Ligouis rightly says that “Of all writers of genius, Chaucer is the one with whom it is easiest to have a sense of comradeship.” He was a great and liberal comedian. Like Shakespeare he depicted various types of humorous characters. he gave many characters to the English literature of this type like the Monk, the Prioress, the Franklyn, the Doctor of Physic etc.


Undoubtedly Chaucer is very great at his characterization. He is universal poet of human nature. No one can surpass him in the field of characterization.

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About the author

Kumud Singh

M.A., B.Ed.

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