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The humour of Chaucer Skelton, Jean White 1932

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THE HUMOUR OP CHAUCER by Jean W. S k e l t o n A Thesis submitted f o r the Degree MASTER OF ARTS i n the Department o f ENGLISH THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l , 1938. THE HUMOUR OF CHAUCER As the purpose of t h i s essay i s to seek a d e f i n i t i o n of humour and to discuss i t with r e l a t i o n to Chaucer and the Canterbury gales, i t might be w e l l to begin w i t h a study of the word i t s e l f . The most i n t e r e s t i n g f a c t revealed by such a study i s that Chaucer himself had no idea of "humour1* i n our modern sense; he had no word fo r what t h i s essay seeks i n h i s poetry. To him •'humour" had i t s o r i g i n a l meaning as taken from the l a t i n ; that i s , moisture or l i q u i d . From t h i s humble beginning the word has gone through a long and curious e v o l u t i o n . We s h a l l touch on only those changes that have reference to our subject. The word was a p p l i e d i n medieval physiology to the f o u r c h i e f f l u i d s of the body (blood, phlegm, choler and melancholy), by the r e l a t i v e proportions of which a man's p h y s i c a l and mental q u a l i t i e s were held to be determined. I t was soon t r a n s f e r r e d to the mental q u a l i t i e s a r i s i n g from these humours and came to mean temperament or d i s p o s i t i o n . The next step was to apply the word to a p a r t i c u l a r d i s p o s i t i o n , i n a d d i t i o n to i t s o r i g i n a l meaning of moisture and i t s p h y s i o l o g i c a l a p p l i c a t i o n . Used i n the p l u r a l , humour then came to mean whims, moods, f a n c i e s . I t i s at t h i s point that our modern use of the word begins to appear. The whims, moods 2 and fancies of others arouse our laughter. We f i n d the Hew E n g l i s h D i c t i o n a r y e x p l a i n i n g "humour" i n the modern sense as "the q u a l i t y of a c t i o n , speech or w r i t i n g which e x c i t e s amusement; the f a c u l t y of p e r c e i v i n g what i s l u d i c r o u s or amusing and of expressing i t i n speech, w r i t i n g or other composition." At once, though we are on f a m i l i a r ground, we f i n d ourselves i n d i f f i c u l t i e s . The word, throughout i t s whole h i s t o r y , has shown a tendency to become more general i n a p p l i c a t i o n , to at t a c h to i t s e l f new ideas; but that very expansiveness which has so enriched i t i n the past gives i t today a b a f f l i n g vagueness. Humour i s a loose term used, as the d i c t i o n a r y d e f i n i t i o n would suggest, to include Ideas as f a r apart as a mu s i c - h a l l joke and the c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n of A l c e s t e . The f i r s t task of t h i s essay, then, w i l l be to l i m i t the meaning of "humour." There are two p o s s i b l e methods of procedure: to state at the outset a d e f i n i t i o n of humour and to j u s t i f y by explanation the manner i n which the word i s defined; or to explore with the reader c e r t a i n t r a i n s of thought from which s h a l l emerge a d e f i n i t i o n of humour. The l a t t e r method i s pre f e r a b l e . Through d i s c u s s i o n , the reader i s enabled to obtain an understanding of humour i n i t s o r i g i n and development and i n i t s r e l a t i o n to other laughter phenomena. Such an understanding no d e f i n i t i o n could give him,no matter how c a r e f u l l y a m p l i f i e d and explained. The s t a r t i n g point i s suggested by the d i c t i o n a r y explanation of humour: "a q u a l i t y ..... which e x c i t e s amusement." 3 The outward manifestation of man's amusement i s laughter. Several questions immediately present themselves. What i s laughter? What causes i t ? I n the laughter of amusement, may we d i s t i n g u i s h several d i f f e r e n t kinds of laughter? What i s the r e l a t i o n of humour to laughter? Seeking answers to these questions,, we f i n d that a great deal has been w r i t t e n about laughter. In f a c t , the number and d i v e r s i t y of theories as to the o r i g i n and cause of the phenomenon are bewildering. The di s c u s s i o n set f o r t h here does not pretend to e i t h e r o r i g i n a l or exhaustive. I t i s merely a b r i e f presentation of what seems to be.the most l o g i c a l approach to a very d i f f i c u l t s ubject. Writers on laughter appear to agree on i t s physio-1 l o g i c a l b a s i s . I t i s a r e p e t i t i v e and rhythmical I n t e r r u p t i o n of the breathing process, c o n s i s t i n g of a l t e r n a t e contractions and releases of c e r t a i n muscles of the larynx, the diaphragm and the face; i t i s audible and v a r i e s i n duration according to i t s i n t e n s i t y . Experiments have shown that the organic e f f e c t s of laughter are not l i m i t e d to the organs of breathing; the heart-beat increases and the blood-vessels d i l a t e i n proportion to the amount o f energy that i s expended i n the outburst. For our d i s c u s s i o n the important aspect of the p h y s i o l o g i o a l basis of laughter i s the release of energy. This release v a r i e s i n amount, a f a c t which i s p a r t i c u l a r l y 1. c f . Smith, W i l l a r d , The Nature of Comedy. Boston, R.G. Badger, 1932, Chapters 1 and 2. r ~ • S u l l y , James, An Essay on Laughter. London, New York and Bombay, Longmans, Green and Co., 1902, Chapter S. 4 noteworthy and w i l l have a bearing on l a t e r phases of our argument. When we come to the ideas advanced as to the cause of laughter - i t s stimulus, the unanimity which marked opinion on the p h y s i o l o g i c a l b a s i s disappears, and we are confronted with varying t h e o r i e s . These theories may be reduced to two 1 categories: one, the s u p e r i o r i t y theory which l o c a t e s the cause of laughter i n the heart, may be l a b e l l e d the emotional stimulus; the other, the contrast theory which locates the cause of laughter i n the head, may be l a b e l l e d the mental stimulus. The supporters of the s u p e r i o r i t y theory think that laughter i s stimulated i n man by any cause that w i l l make him f e e l superior, e s p e c i a l l y by the discomfiture, misfortunes or f o l l y of others. Reference to t h i s theory may be found i n 2 3 Pl a t o and A r i s t o t l e but the most i n t e r e s t i n g d i s c u s s i o n of i t appears i n the work of Thomas Hobbes. Speaking of laughter, he says: "Also men laugh at t h e , i n f i r m i t i e s of others, by comparison wherewith t h e i r own a b i l i t i e s are set o f f and i l l u s t r a t e d ..... I may therefore conclude that the passion of laughter i s nothing else but sudden g l o r y a r i s i n g from some sudden conception of eminency i n ourselves by comparison w i t h 1. Smith, W i l l a r d , op. c i t . , p.31. P r e S n 8 ' l f l Q p e t t v T h ! M5°* Uf S ° £ P l a t ° - O x f o r d > The Clarendon Press, 1898.. Volume i v , P h i l . 48 A. - „ 3* Butcher, S.H., A r i s t o t l e ' s Theory of Poetry and Pine A r t . London, MacMillan and Company, 1902, p .19. 1 the i n f i r m i t y of others, or with our own formerly." Hobbes 1 argument has continued to have i t s supporters down to the present day when i t s two most eloquent defenders are 2 3 perhaps S i d i s and l u d o v i o i . On the other hand, the supporters of the contrast theory b e l i e v e that laughter i s roused i n man by s u r p r i s i n g contrast between what he expects and what he sees, or i n other words, by the perception of in c o n g r u i t y . Kant was perhaps the f i r s t to give d e f i n i t e expression to t h i s theory i n h i s C r i t i q u e of Aesthetic Judgment when he wrote: "Something absurd must be present i n whatever i s to r a i s e a hearty convulsive laugh, laughter i s a f f e c t i o n 4 a r i s i n g from a s t r a i n e d expectation reduced to nothing." 5 " 6 . Among the modern w r i t e r s , Bergson and Smith have done most to suggest how these two theories - the s u p e r i o r i t y and the contrast - may be r e c o n c i l e d . Basing h i s argument on c e r t a i n ideas to be found i n Bergson*s book, Smith suggests that laughter has undergone a development p a r a l l e l to that which takes place i n the c h i l d as he grows to a man or to that 1. Hobbes, Thoma®, Leviathan, London, J.M. Dent and Sons, L t d . , 1928. P a r t I , Of Man. Chapter 6. S. S i d i s , B o r i s , The Psychology of Laughter, New York and London, D. Appleton and Co., 1919. 3. L u d o v i o i , Anthony M., The Secret of Laughter, London, Constable and Co., 1932. 4. Kant, I . , C r i t i q u e of Aesthetic Judgment. T r a n s l a t i o n by atames Meredith. Oxford Press, 1911, p. 199. 5. Bergson, Henri, Laughter. A T r a n s l a t i o n by C. Brereton. and T. Rothwell. New Yorky MacMillan Company, 1911. 6. Smith, W., op. c i t . which has taken place i n man as he has changed from a barbarian to a c i v i l i z e d being. Considering laughter from the genetic standpoint, he remarks: "The laughter of a c h i l d i s g e n e r a l l y the spontaneous e b u l l i t i o n of h i s well-being; he does not w i l l to laugh; nor has h i s laughter s o c i a l i m p l i c a t i o n . I t i s devoid i n i t s o r i g i n of mechanical c o n t r o l and s o c i a l i n t e n t i o n . As the c h i l d develops, h i s p l a y with other c h i l d r e n imbues h i s laughter w i t h s o c i a l consciousness, which i t soon r e f l e c t s . He learns the value, as weapons, of mockery and r i d i c u l e . But he does not l o s e completely the e a r l i e r laughter, of c h i l d i s h well-being. Furthermore, i f he grows i n t o a well-rounded man, h i s laughter acquires a r e f l e c t i v e element and becomes what Meredith a p t l y c a l l s * the r i c h e r laugh of heart and mind i n 1 one. , n The supporters of the s u p e r i o r i t y theory concentrate on the e a r l i e r stages of the development of laughter, when the stimulus i s l a r g e l y emotional; the supporters of the contrast theory, on the l a t e r stages when the stimulus i s l a r g e l y mental. The healthy c h i l d laughs because h i s well-being has reached a peak which demands r e l e a s e . He has a f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y , not over any p a r t i c u l a r person or th i n g , but merely because of that moment of p h y s i c a l poise. As he grows o l d e r , h i s laughter becomes e g o i s t i c i n a h o s t i l e sense, the laughter of esteem f o r s e l f and contempt f o r others. He laughs at the discomfiture of h i s f e l l o w s and h i s own self-esteem i s increased thereby. 1. I b i d . , p.55-56. 7 At t h i s stage, the s u p e r i o r i t y stimulus i s at i t s most prominent. Later s t i l l , as h i s mind develops and becomes quicker i n a s s o c i a t i o n and comparison, he laughs i n response to a new stimulus, to the contrast between image and perception, between what he expected to see and the v i s i b l e f a c t . ' "[His] nervous energy," to quote Dr. Smith, " i s concentrated upon a c e r t a i n end which reason leads [him] to e x p e c t . w i l l r e s u l t from the given circumstances. Suddenly there i s a c o l l i s i o n between that massed nerve force and an end incongruous with or i n di s p r o p o r t i o n to that expectation. The now superfluous energy discharges i t s e l f by the spasmodic c o n t r a c t i o n of c e r t a i n 1 muscles which we c a l l laughter." The s u p e r i o r i t y stimulus i s s t i l l there but i t i s r a p i d l y becoming secondary to the contrast stimulus. Moreover, the s u p e r i o r i t y stimulus need no longer produce laughter of esteem f o r s e l f , and contempt f o r others. Just as i n the f i r s t stages, the c h i l d had a f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y not over any p a r t i c u l a r person or thing but merely from a moment of p h y s i c a l p o i s e , so the adult i n the l a t e r stages may have a f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y which need not a r i s e from the i n f e r i o r i t y of others but which probably comes from a moment of mental poise brought about by the act of perception. I t i s of i n t e r e s t to note here the connection between the p h y s i o l o g i c a l basis and the causes of laughter. Laughter e n t a i l s a release of energy i n response to a stimulus. With the c h i l d , where the stimulus, a f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y , i s 1. I b i d . , p.63-64. 8 emotional, the release of energy w i l l be at the maximum; with the adult, where the stimulus, a perception of i n c o n g r u i t y , i s mental, the release of energy w i l l f a l l short of the maximum. While the c h i l d laughs, the adult smiles. The adult indulges i n a hearty laugh i n v o l v i n g a complete release of energy only when he laughs i n response to an emotional, not a mental, stimulus, when he becomes f o r a space of time a barbarian, enjoying to the f u l l h i s neighbour's discomfiture. The two t h e o r i e s , then, can be r e c o n c i l e d and our f i r s t two questions, what i s laughter and what causes laughter, are thereby answered. We are agreed that laughter i s a p h y s i o l o g i c a l phenomenon and that the act of laughing releases energy. There are two p o s s i b l e s t i m u l i : the f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y and the perception of in c o n g r u i t y . The former w i l l be the sole stimulus only i n the youngest of c h i l d r e n and the l a t t e r , only i n the most c u l t i v a t e d of a d u l t s . I t i s probable that i n ne a r l y a l l laughter both s t i m u l i w i l l be present, s u p e r i o r i t y as an emotional stimulus and contrast as a mental. At times, the s u p e r i o r i t y stimulus w i l l be predominant; at times, the contras t . These conclusions suggest ideas that lead to the answers to our two remaining questions. What d i f f e r e n t kinds of laughter are there i n the laughter of amusement? We can c l a s s i f y the d i f f e r e n t kinds according to the s t i m u l i that provoke them. What i s the r e l a t i o n of humour to laughter? We can i d e n t i f y humour by the p a r t i c u l a r k i n d of laughter which i t e x c i t e s . 9 A close s c r u t i n y of the s t i m u l i enables us to divide the laughter of amusement i n t o f i v e c l a s s e s : 1. the laughter of p h y s i c a l well-being; 2. the laughter at the s u r p r i s i n g ; 3. the laughter at the r i d i c u l o u s ; 4. comic laughter; 5. humorous laughter. The f i r s t , as we have seen, i s purely p h y s i o l o g i c a l . I t i s the only kind p o s s i b l e to a very young c h i l d and i t i s a k i n d i n which he may continue to indulge throughout h i s l i f e . The stimulus i s a f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y . -The second and t h i r d d i v i s i o n s are very c l o s e l y l i n k e d ; one blends i n t o the other imperceptibly. Both the laughter at the s u r p r i s i n g and the laughter at the r i d i c u l o u s have as t h e i r emotional base the stimulus of a f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y ; and here the f e e l i n g a r i s e s not from p h y s i c a l w e l l - b e i n g from something which the laugher, observes. The laughter at the s u r p r i s i n g i s that which i s roused by anything odd or unusual i n appearance or by a mechanical r e p e t i t i o n ! the removal of a hat by a gust of wind, a s t u t t e r i n someone's speech. I f i n a d d i t i o n to the element of s u r p r i s e , we have an i n t e l l e c t u a l element, a contrast between image and perception, the laughter of s u r p r i s e becomes the laughter at the r i d i c u l o u s . Let us suppose a sudden gust of wind plucks o f f the hat of a pompous and p o r t l y gentleman. We laugh, not so much at the unexpected removal of h i s hat, as at the sudden p r i c k i n g of h i s balloon of d i g n i t y , at the contrast between h i s former d i g n i f i e d and s e l f - s a t i s f i e d a i r and h i s now d i s h e v e l l e d and distraught appearance. Although the perception of contrast has appeared, the f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y s t i l l occupies an important place as a stimulus. We perceive the r i d i c u l o u s aspect of the p o r t l y gentleman and laugh w i t h a pleasant sense of our own immunity. The f o u r t h aspect of laughter i s that which engages the a t t e n t i o n of the w r i t e r of comedy. I t i s the r i d i c u l o u s viewed i n i t s s o c i a l aspects, the abnormal i n character regarded i n i t s s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s . The a b s u r d i t i e s of men, the i n d i v i d u a l l y abnormal, are regarded w i t h r e l a t i o n to so c i e t y , the s o c i a l l y normal; and the contrast e x c i t e s comic laughter. The pomposity of"our p o r t l y gentleman, f o r example, when contrasted w i t h h i s comparative unimportance i n s o c i e t y becomes a comic subject. Our emotional f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y i s s t i l l there, but i t i s r a p i d l y taking a l e s s important place. Our a t t i t u d e has become somewhat detached and j u d i c i a l . The important stimulus here i s the perception of i n c o n g r u i t y . In the l a s t d i v i s i o n , we approach the type of laughter which i n t e r e s t s us most, that of humour. The humorous i s s t i l l the r i d i c u l o u s - as was the comic - but i t i s the r i d i c u l o u s viewed, not s o c i a l l y but i n d i v i d u a l l y , not j u d i c i a l l y but sympathetically. The abnormal i n character while i t i s regarded against a background of the s o c i a l l y normal i s regarded as an i n t e g r a l part of a complex whole. The stimulus i s s t i l l the perception of inc o n g r u i t y but our a t t i t u d e has changed. The f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y now occupies a very unimportant place. I f i t i s present at a l l , i t i s very i n d e f i n i t e ; i t appears, as we pointed out before, as a r e s u l t 11 of the mental well-being produced by the act of perception. And the f e e l i n g which has replaced that d e f i n i t e f e e l i n g o f s u p e r i o r i t y noted i n the laughter of s u r p r i s e , i n the laughter at the r i d i c u l o u s and, to a l e s s e r degree, In the laughter of the comic.is a f e e l i n g of sympathy. We look at the pompous man, perceive h i s pomposity, - and admit our own l i k e n e s s to him. The a t t i t u d e has been w e l l described by Meredith: " I f you laugh a l l round him (the r i d i c u l o u s person) tumble him, r o l l him about, deal him a smack, and drop a tear on him, own h i s l i k e n e s s to you and yours to your neighbour, spare him as l i t t l e as you shun, p i t y him as much as you 1 expose, i t i s the s p i r i t of humour that i s moving you." Here, then, Is the province of humour w i t h i n the empire of laughter. L i k e a l l other laughter, that roused by humour i s s t i l l a p h y s i o l o g i c a l phenomenon and e n t a i l s a release of energy. L i k e the laughter of the r i d i c u l o u s and the comic i t i s roused by a perception of in c o n g r u i t y , a contrast between image and f a c t . But u n l i k e a l l other laughter, i t i s freed from s e l f - r e g a r d i n g s u p e r i o r i t y . Laughter which began as u t t e r egoism i n the sense of well-being ends i n humour which e n t a i l s an escape from s e l f . We have stamped the ol d word "humour" wi t h a new meaning: when we look f o r humour we look f o r the a b i l i t y to see, without rancour or condemnation and wi th sympathy and understanding, the incongruous i n 1. Meredith, G ., An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the  Comic S p i r i t . Hew York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915. p. 73-74. character and a c t i o n and to e x h i b i t that i n c o n g r u i t y i n such a way as to arouse laughter which, purged of i t s grosser elements of egoism and s u p e r i o r i t y , has a r e f l e c t i v e warmth. Our d e f i n i t i o n of humour suggests some i n t e r e s t i n g l i n e s of thought, an e x p l o r a t i o n of which may c l a r i f y our idea. In the f i r s t place, the a b i l i t y to see the incongruous can come only with the maturity of the i n d i v i d u a l and the race. Dr. Smith observes t h i s when he remarks; "And as humour comes l a t e i n t o the l i f e o f a ripened i n d i v i d u a l , so i t came l a t e i n t o the l i f e of the world; i t i s a c r e a t i o n of our modern c i v i l i z a t i o n which has had time and energy l e f t over from the processes of l i v i n g , to devote 1 to r e f l e c t i o n and emergence from s e l f . " There are two reasons f o r the l a t e appearance of humours the mental complexity of the process involved and the a t t i t u d e of detachment inseparable from i t . Humour i s impossible to the c h i l d and the barbarian; both are handicapped by the s i m p l i c i t y of t h e i r mental processes and by the i n c a p a c i t y to be detached from the urgency of t h e i r own f e e l i n g s and ideas. To perceive the incongruous, the mind must be quick to perceive s i m i l a r i t y and contrast; i t must be able to think on two or more planes. Moreover, to that a b i l i t y to perceive r e l a t i o n s h i p s , there must be superadded a Mnd of mastery over one's own f e e l i n g s , a mastery which might be c a l l e d detachment. This a t t i t u d e i m p l i e s a philosophy of l i f e which w i l l enable the humorist to look 1. Smith, W., op. c i t . , p.145. IS w i t h u n d e r s t a n d i n g and w i t h o u t i m p a t i e n c e upon the c o n t r a d i c t i o n s he obse rves i n man. Goupled w i t h t h i s de tachment , i s ano the r a t t i t u d e w h i c h a t f i r s t seems i t s o p p o s i t e , t h a t of sympathy. As a m a t t e r o f f a c t , w i t h o u t detachment , sympathy i n the r e a l sense o f the word i s i m p o s s i b l e . I f we canno t escape from the p o i n t o f v i e w o f s e l f , we a r e too absorbed i n our own f e e l i n g s and r e a c t i o n s to be a b l e to e x p e r i e n c e i m a g i n a t i v e l y the f e e l i n g s and r e a c t i o n s o f o t h e r s . And b e f o r e we can r e g a r d a man w i t h sympathy, we must be a b l e to app rox ima te h i s p o i n t o f v i e w . The sympathy o f the h u m o r i s t must be such tha t he f i n d s no man, no a spec t o f l i f e u n f i t f o r h i s s t u d y . Wherever he sees men caught i n the n o i s y w h i r l o f l i f e , t h e r e w i l l he f i n d h i s i n s p i r a t i o n . Whenever he sees h i s f e l l o w s "wax out o f p r o p o r t i o n , o v e r b l o w n , p r e t e n t i o u s , b o m b a s t i c a l , h y p o c r i t i c a l , " p e d a n t i c , f a n t a s t i c a l l y d e l i c a t e ; " when he obse rves them " s e l f -d e c e i v e d , o r hoodwinked , g i v e n to r u n r i o t i n i d o l a t r i e s , d r i f t i n g i n t o v a n i t i e s , c o n g r e g a t i n g i n a b s u r d i t i e s , p l a n n i n g s h o r t - s i g h t e d l y , p l o t t i n g d e m e n t e d l y ; " or when he f i n d s they a r e "a t v a r i a n c e w i t h t h e i r p r o f e s s i o n s , and v i o l a t e the u n w r i t t e n bu t p e r c e p t i b l e l a w s b i n d i n g them i n c o n s i d e r a t i o n one to a n o t h e r , " the s p i r i t o f humour w i l l move h im to e x h i b i t those i n c o n g r u i t i e s so t h a t we may l a u g h a t them and y e t own t h e i r l i k e n e s s to our own p e r v e r s i t i e s . And as the h u m o r i s t obse rves the a b s u r d i t i e s o f the men about h i m , he spa res no one . He sees p o t e n t i a l i t i e s o f l a u g h t e r i n the human conduct 1. M e r e d i t h , G . , o p . c i t . , p . 8 5 - 8 6 . 1 of a l l people, even those c l o s e s t and most beloved. The proper place f o r an examination of Chaucer as a humorist, f o r a d e c i s i o n as to whether or not he has the required detachment, sympathy and range w i l l be at the end of t h i s essay, when, a f t e r having examined the Canterbury Tales i n the l i g h t of our d e f i n i t i o n , we are ready to give our conclusions. But our d i s c u s s i o n of humour has shown that a c e r t a i n complexity of mind i s a necessary part of a humorist's equipment. How can we r e c o n c i l e t h i s w i t h Chaucer's supposed naivete? According to Professor K i t t r e d g e , there has been no more p e r s i s t e n t legend than that of the naivete of Geoffrey Chaucer. Yet, K i t t r e d g e points out, "few f a c t s of h i s t o r y are more s o l i d l y e s t a b l i s h e d than that Geoffrey Ghaucer, i n h i s a h a b i t as he l i v e d , was not n a i f . " He was l i v i n g i n an age which markedly resembled our own. Troubled by unrest among the labouring c l a s s e s , by rumours of war, by r e l i g i o u s scepticism and evangelism, h i s world, i f we except c e r t a i n mechanical contrivances the possession of which gives us a f a l s e f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y , was f u l l y as complex as our own. I t i s even pos s i b l e that th© c u l t i v a t e d man had a more complex habit of 1. "You may estimate your capacity -for Gomic Perception by being able to detect the r i d i c u l e of them you l o v e , without l o v i n g them the l e s s , and more by being able to see y o u r s e l f somewhat r i d i c u l o u s i n dear eyes, and accepting the c o r r e c t i o n t h e i r image of you proposes." I b i d . p.78." 2. K i t t r e d g e , G.L., Ghaucer and h i s Poetry. Harvard U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1915. p.45. ; mind i n Chaucer's time than he has to-day. "The c h i e f difference,' 1 says Professor K i t t r e d g e , "between the fourteenth century and our own, i n i n t e l l e c t u a l matters, l i e s , I think, i n a d i f f e r e n t a t t i t u d e toward s p e c i a l i z a t i o n . Our tendency i s to exhaust one subject, i f we can, and ignore the r e s t ; 1 t h e i r s was to as p i r e to an encyclopaedic grasp of the universe." Unhampered by the sense of f u t i l i t y which m u l t i p l i c i t y of d e t a i l has helped to give the moderns, Chaucer's mind ranges over the whole panorama of Iraman l i f e and knowledge, and i s quick to grasp e s s e n t i a l s , supple i n p e r c e i v i n g s i m i l a r i t y and contrast. Any naivete to be perceived i n Chaucer i s assumed, and we observe i t because he wishes us to do so. He f i n d s an appearance of naivete u s e f u l i n detaching i n t e r e s t from h i m s e l f and focussing i t on the P i l g r i m s . . He does everything he can to make the s i t u a t i o n i n the Tales dramatic, to draw our at t e n t i o n to the actors at the front of the stage. A f t e r h i s i n i t i a l work of making us of " h i r felaweship anon," he withdraws to the rear of the procession, there to remain i n the background u n t i l the Host speaks to him. Moreover, i n assuming an appearance of naivete, Chaucer knows that he i s g i v i n g h i s humour a d d i t i o n a l e f f e c t . He has not only the complexity o f mind which enables him to see the i n c o n g r u i t i e s of l i f e but also the a r t i s t i c i n s i g h t which makes him aware of the method by which to present those i n c o n g r u i t i e s . Just as the matter of humour l i e s i n contrasts, so i t s manner l i e s i n i n v e r s i o n . The tragi-comedy 1. K i t t r e d g e , G-.L., op. c i t . p.7. of l i f e i s best depicted by a man who has apparently no sense of i t s q u a l i t y . I t i s so shown that we cannot miss i t s c o n t r a d i c t i o n s ; and our sense of those c o n t r a d i c t i o n s i s deepened by the seeming a r t l e s s n e s s of the a r t i s t . Should the reader be confused by t h i s naivete of manner, and miss the subtlety, of mind which prompts i t s use, he himself becomes a subject f o r humour. He stands i n "that p e c u l i a r oblique beam of l i g h t .... i l l u m i n a t e d to the general eye as the very object of chase and doomed quarry of the thi n g obscure 1 to him." From an examination of the phenomenon laughter, we have framed a d e f i n i t i o n of humour: the a b i l i t y to perceive the incongruous i n l i f e and to present i t i n such a way as to arouse the sympathetic laughter of the reader; and we now approach the Canterbury Tales to l e a r n , w i t h the help of our d e f i n i t i o n , what we can of the humour of Ghaucer. I t may be asked: why confine ourselves to the Canterbury Tales? Why not include the Rous of Fame and Tr o i l u s and Criseyde? There are sever a l reasons f o r our choice. In an essay of t h i s d e s c r i p t i o n , i t i s obviously necessary to l i m i t the subject. An extremely i n t e r e s t i n g study could be made of the development of Chaucer's humour, beginning, l e t us say, i n the Hous of Fame and ending i n the Canterbury Tales, but such a study would take us f a r beyond the confines of t h i s essay. A l l we can attempt to do here i s 1. Meredith, G . , op. c i t . p.84. to discuss Chaucer's humour as i t i s found at the peak of i t s development i n the Canterbury Tales. The humorist must look upon the world and perceive i t s i n c o n g r u i t i e s ; i n the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer has given us the world of h i s time, f o r the P i l g r i m s are as representative a c o l l e c t i o n of men and women as i t i s p o s s i b l e to imagine. In the Hous of Fame, there i s humour; but i t i s humour working upon m a t e r i a l which Chaucer found too i n t r a c t a b l e f o r f u r t h e r development. In T r o l l u s and Criseyde, there i s humour which i s e x t r a o r d i n a r i l y complex and as mature as anything found i n the Canterbury Tales but i t i s humour which plays only upon three people i n a l i m i t e d number of s i t u a t i o n s . In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer humour i s at work on a l l l i f e , on men and women of a l l ranks and conditions who meet one another i n ever s h i f t i n g and changing r e l a t i o n s h i p s . We have before us, to borrow Professor Kit t r e d g e ' s phrase, "a micro-cosmography, a l i t t l e image of the great world." i t must be remembered, a l s o , that the Canterbury Tales was planned and f o r the most part w r i t t e n when Chaucer had reached the f u l l maturity of h i s powers; and i n t h i s work, we are l i k e l y to see h i s humour at i t s best and most c h a r a c t e r i s t i c . Considering the Canterbury Tales from the point o f view o f Chaucer's humour, we f i n d that i t s s t r u c t u r e presents a p e c u l i a r problem i n c l a s s i f i c a t i o n . The work n a t u r a l l y f a l l s i n t o two d i s t i n c t p a r t s : the Prologue and the Tales. In ;the Prologue, Chaucer i n h i s own person i s speaking to us and des c r i b i n g the P i l g r i m s as he sees them. As the p i c t u r e s grow before our eyes, we become absorbed i n them; we perceive the a b s u r d i t i e s , the c o n t r a d i c t i o n s , the e s s e n t i a l humanity of these people whom we §,t once laugh at and l i k e . The whole Prologue i s bathed i n the steady glow of Chaucer's humour. In the Tales, however, the p i c t u r e s have come to l i f e . Chaucer has ceased to speak i n h i s own person; he has withdravm to the background of the stage upon which h i s creations move; he i s , as he i n s i s t s over and over again, only the r e p o r t e r . I n the Prologue, he says: Whoso shal t e l l e a t a l e a f t e r a man, He moot reherce as ny as ever he kan Bveri c h a word, i f i t be i n h i s charge. 1. And again, i n the Prologue to the Reeve's Tale: f o r I moot reherce Hir t a l e s a l l e , be they b e t t r e or werse, Or e l l e s f a l s e n some of my matere. 2. The s i t u a t i o n has become a dramatic one. The P i l g r i m s laugh and dispute t h e i r way through the pilgimage, each r e v e a l i n g hi s character by h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p with the others and by the t a l e he t e l l s . Chaucer's humour i s s t i l l to be perceived i n the c r e a t i o n of these people, i t i s s t i l l a l l - p e r v a d i n g , but i t i s l e s s d i r e c t ; i t has moved back a step, so to speak. Such a r e t r e a t has i t s advantages. I f the humour i s l e s s d i r e c t , i t i s more sub t l e ; and i f Ghaucer i s l e s s i n p h y s i c a l evidence, he i s more s p i r i t u a l l y pervasive. We miss the p e c u l i a r f l a v o r of h i s humour i f we do not get a sense of him 1. Quotations i n t h i s essay are made throughout from Robinson, F.KT., The Complete Works of Geoffrey Ghaucer, Boston and Hew York, Houghton M i f f l i n Company, 1933. I (A} 731-733. 2. I (A) 3173-3175'. behind the Tales as the i n v i s i b l e creator of the P i l g r i m s , p l a c i n g them i n the "oblique l i g h t " of h i s humour which touches and i l l u m i n a t e s now, the Wife, now the M i l l e r , now the Monk and now Chancer himself, who "short of w i t " rode i n pleasant obscurity at the end of the procession. I t must have t i c k l e d Chaucer immensely to have created himself. Ho doubt he enjoyed the contrast between the Chaucer that the world knew and the Chaucer that the P i l g r i m s knew. He must be r e l i s h i n g now the l a s t p e r f e c t touch to h i s l i t t l e joke as scholars argue over whether the Chaucer the P i l g r i m s knew was the r e a l Chaucer! The Prologue and the Tales, then, each present a d i f f e r e n t problem. In both, Chaucer's humour may be perceived at work upon the P i l g r i m s , but the approach and manner are d i f f e r e n t . With our d e f i n i t i o n of humour once more i n mind, l e t us approach the Prologue. As we read the f a m i l i a r words, we r e a l i z e the d i f f i c u l t y of the task. We are to t r y to analyze a q u a l i t y that i s subtle and pervasive, so d i f f u s e d that i t defies e x t r a c t i o n . We f e e l ourselves made captives of Chaucer's gently bland ambiguity. But as we read again and again, s t r i v i n g to reach some idea of the manner of Chaucer's humour, we perceive that there are c e r t a i n d e f i n i t e types of i n c o n g r u i t y i n which Chaucer i s i n t e r e s t e d . These ares 1. Incongruity between the i n d i v i d u a l l y abnormal and the s o c i a l l y normal. S t r i c t l y speaking, we are a l l i n d i v i d u a l l y abnormal, and there i s no such t h i n g as the s o c i a l l y normal, which e x i s t s , i f anywhere only i n the mind. Nevertheless, there i s a c e r t a i n . s o c i a l norm to which we a l l approximate; and too great a v a r i a t i o n foousses upon us the a t t e n t i o n of the humorist. I t i s i n such divergences that he f i n d s h i s m a t e r i a l j i n a scholar who develops h i s mind at the expense of h i s body; i n an a t h l e t e who develops h i s body at the expense of h i s mind. 2. Incongruity between the r e a l and the apparent. There i s no wish here to give these two words any subtle p h i l o s o p h i c a l connotation. By the r e a l , we mean simply the thing as i t i s , and by the apparent, the t h i n g as i t seems to be. A humorist would perceive the i n c o n g r u i t y between the fear a man a c t u a l l y f e l t and the b l u s t e r i n g manner w i t h which he sought to disguise that f e a r . 3. Incongruity between character and p r o f e s s i o n . By character i s meant the q u a l i t i e s attached to a human being. To use modern examples, should a det e c t i v e show s t u p i d i t y or a judge c o r r u p t i o n the contrast between the character and the p r o f e s s i o n which demands those q u a l i t i e s the character lacks would be a subject f o r humour. 4. Incongruity between q u a l i t i e s i n character. This type c o n s i s t s of a c e r t a i n d e l i c a t e d i s o r g a n i z a t i o n w i t h i n character i t s e l f . Callousness a l l i e d w i t h sudden flashes of tenderness, tolerance l i n k e d w i t h a f i t f u l shrewishness, any combination where the elements do not seem complementary would supply m a t e r i a l f o r humour. I t w i l l be noted that these four types of incongruity f i t i n wit h our discussion of the contrast theory; there i s the contrast between what we expected to see and what we a c t u a l l y do see, the perception of i n c o n g r u i t y . l e t us examine some p o r t r a i t s of the P i l g r i m s to discover i f , i n presenting these i n c o n g r u i t i e s to us, Chaucer arouses laughter which i s sympathetic. The f i r s t type of incongruity i s , as might be expected, exemplified by more P i l g r i m s than i s any other type. However, the C l e r k , the M i l l e r and the F r a n k l i n w i l l serve our purpose. The Clerk, long a student of l o g i c at Oxford, v a r i e s from the s o c i a l norm i n being too i n t e l l e c t u a l . This over-devotion to l e a r n i n g and h i s i n d i f f e r e n c e to other aspects of l i f e make him so i n d i v i d u a l l y abnormal as to be m a t e r i a l f o r humour. Chaucer must have known many such men, scholars so preoccupied with t h e i r studies that.they neglected m a t e r i a l comforts and possessions. Chaucer smiles at the i m p r a c t i c a l nature of scholars as he describes the thinness and shabbiness of h i s Cleric; As leene h i s hors as i s a rake, And he nas r i g h t f a t , I undertake, But looked holwe, and therto sobrely F u l thredbare was h i s overeste courtepy. 1 . He emphasizes the unworldliness of the student and has a twinkle i n h i s eye f o r the general unprofitableness of 1. I (A) 287 -890 . *b< s c h o l a s t i c r e s e a r c h : F o r he hadde ge t en hym ye t no b e n e f i c e , He was so w o r l d l y f o r t o have o f f i c e . 1 . Bu t a l be tha t he was a p h i l o s o p h r e , Y e t hadde he b u t l i t e l g o l d i n c o f r e . 2 . C h a u c e r ' s s m i l e a t the C l e r k i s so g e n t l e tha t i t a lmos t e l u d e s us* T h i s C l e r k bor rows money and spends i t on b o o k s . H i s l o v e o f l e a r n i n g has made h im a man a p a r t ; h i s g e n e r a l a i r o f a b s t r a c t i o n and s e e d i n e s s , h i s i n d i f f e r e n c e to ou tward appearances so a m u s i n g l y r e f l e c t e d i n h i s own p h y s i c a l appearance and t h a t o f h i s ho r se make h i m a humorous f i g u r e . But l e s t we u n d e r e s t i m a t e the man, l e s t we f a i l t o a p p r e c i a t e the o t h e r s i d e o f the C l e r k ' s u n w o r l d l i n e s s , h i s h u m i l i t y i n the p re sence o f g r e a t e r knowledge and h i s eagerness to i m p a r t what he knows to t h o s e who a re i g n o r a n t , Chaucer f i n i s h e s the p o r t r a i t l o v i n g l y w i t h one l i n e : And g l a d l y wolde he l e r n e and g l a d l y t eohe . 3 L i k e Ghauoer , we s m i l e at the C l e r i c , but our s m i l e i s tempered w i t h a p p r e c i a t i o n o f h i s v i r t u e s . The d i r e c t o p p o s i t e o f the C l e r k i n every way i s the M i l l e r . The C l e r k i s i n c o n g r u o u s because , i n compar i son w i t h the average man,he i s too i n t e l l e c t u a l ; the M i l l e r , on the o t h e r hand , c a t c h e s the a t t e n t i o n o f the h u m o r i s t because he i s too a n i m a l . He i s i ncong ruous i n h i s p h y s i c a l coa r senes s 1 . I (A) 291 -292 . 2 . I (A) 297 -298 . 3 . I (A) 308 . and a s s e r t i v e n e s s . He i s as b u r l y as the C l e r i c i s t h i n : F u l byg he was o f brawn and eek o f bones . 1 . He was s h o r t - s h o l d r e d , b r o o d , a t h i k k e k n a r r e . 2 . H i s head was used f o r a v e r y d i f f e r e n t purpose than the C l e r k ' s . Ther was no dore t h a t he n o l d e heve o f h a r r e Or breke i t a t a r ennyng w i t h h i s h e e d . 3 . Where the C l e r k spoke but l i t t l e and t h a t q u i e t l y , a lways "sownynge i n m o r a l v e r t u , " the M i l l e r was l oud -mou thed , a " j a n g l e r e and a g o l i a r d e y s , " a lways t a l k i n g o f "synne and h a r l o t r i e s . " The C l e r k was u n w o r l d l y but the M i l l e r was shrewd, c u n n i n g and s e l f - s e e k i n g : Wei coude he s t e l e n c o r n and t o l l e n t h r i e s . 4. Chaucer does no t t r e a t the M i l l e r so g e n t l y as he does the C l e r k . H i s t o u c h changes to s u i t the s u b j e c t . Whereas the p o r t r a i t o f the C l e r k i s g i v e n i n i n f i n i t e d e l i c a c y o f l i n e , t h a t o f the M i l l e r i s p a i n t e d i n w i t h r o u g h , b o l d s t r o k e s . Y e t though the M i l l e r ' s c r u d i t i e s a r e d e s c r i b e d f r a n k l y , t hey do n o t r e p e l u s . A t c l o s e q u a r t e r s h i s l o u d n e s s wou ld g r a t e on u s , as i t d i d on some o f the P i l g r i m s , but he i s so d o w n r i g h t so unashamed i n h i s r o g u e r y , t ha t we cannot h e l p l i k i n g h im as Chaucer d i d . I n s p i t e o f o u r s e l v e s , we admire h i s p h y s i c a l ene rgy , o v e r p o w e r i n g as i t i s . B e s i d e s he c o u l d blow a p i p e ! H i s v i g o r i n so d o i n g as he e s c o r t e d the company out o f town 1 . I (A) 5 4 6 . 2 . I (A) 5 4 9 . 3 . I (A) 5 4 9 - 5 5 0 . 4 . I (A) 56B. must have been the sou rce o f c o n s i d e r a b l e s a t i s f a c t i o n to h i m s e l f and r e s i g n e d amusement to the P i l g r i m s . We l a u g h , a t the M i l l e r as we p e r c e i v e the i n c o n g r u i t y o f h i s b l a t a n t v u l g a r i t y , but i n our l a u g h t e r t h e r e i s l i k i n g and a k i n d o f r e l u c t a n t a d m i r a t i o n . H i s complacency , h i s a b s o r p t i o n i n h i s own p h y s i c a l g r o s s n e s s , h i s o b l i v i o u s n e s s to the r e a c t i o n s o f o t h e r s a re somehow i m p r e s s i v e . Our t h i r d example i s the F r a n k l i n . He o c c u p i e s many o f f i c i a l p o s i t i o n s i n the coun ty and pe r fo rms h i s d u t i e s w i t h d i g n i t y ? A t s e s s i o u n s t h e r was he l o r d and s i r e ; F u l o f t e tyme he was knyght o f the s h i r e . 1. A s h i r r e v e hadde he been , and a c o u n t o u r . Was nowher s w i c h a w o r t h y v a v a s o u r . 2 . I t i s no t h i s whole c h a r a c t e r and way o f l i f e t ha t p r e s e n t s a s u b j e c t f o r humour but r a t h e r one a s p e c t o f them: h i s d e v o t i o n to f o o d . F o r a man to l i k e good food and to t ake an i n t e r e s t i n the p r e p a r a t i o n of i t i s n a t u r a l and even commendable; but when he a l l o w s h i s l o v e o f food to become an o b s e s s i o n , he becomes a b n o r m a l . As i f to emphasize the i n c o n g r u i t y o f s u c h an o v e r - d e v o t i o n , Chaucer spends twenty- two l i n e s d e s c r i b i n g the p a s s i o n o f the F r a n k l i n f o r d e l i c a c i e s o f the t a b l e as c o n t r a s t e d w i t h s even l i n e s on h i s p h y s i c a l appearance and h i s o f f i c e s . I t i s the F r a n k l i n as a gourmand whom Chaucer f i n d s amus ing : 1 . I (A) 355 -356 . 2 . I (A) ; 359-360. Wo was h i s cook but i f h i s sauce were Poynaunt and sharp and redy a l h i s geere. 1. The F r a n k l i n ' s f a i l i n g i s a weakness i n which we a l l share. C a r r i e d to an extreme, we f i n d i t laughable, but, as we laugh, we own our own l i k e n e s s to the F r a n k l i n as d i d Chaucer whose f i g u r e , i f we are to belie v e the Host, showed the e f f e c t s of 2 h i s a p p r e c i a t i o n of good food. The two most i n t e r e s t i n g examples of our second type of incongruity - that between the r e a l and the apparent -are furnished by the Man of Law and the Merchant. The man of Law i s depicted as being "war and wys." He gives th© impression of being a man of e x c e l l e n t judgment, who f u l f i l l s h i s many duties w i t h e f f i c i e n c y , and who, so great i s the demand f o r h i s s e r v i c e s , i s always employed. J u s t i c e he was f u l often i n a s s i s e , ^ By patente and by pleyn commissioun. For h i s science ant f o r h i s heigh renoun, Of fees and robes hadde he many oon. 5. Here we have the Man of Law as he wished the world to see him. But, Chaucer wonders, i s he r e a l l y as wise as he appears? D i s c r e e t he was and of greet reverence -He seemed swich, h i s wordes weren so wis©. 4. Is he r e a l l y so burdened with an excess of work? Kowher so b i s y a man as he ther nas, And yet he semed b i s i e r than he was. 5. 1. I (A) 351-352. 2. VII. 700. 3. I (At 314-317 . 4. I (A) 312-313. 5. I (A) ; 321-322. Chaucer's shrewdness perceives the r e a l beneath the apparent and presents them both to us i n the Man of law who looked so much wiser and busier than he a c t u a l l y was. There i s no h i n t of d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t i n Chaucer's shrewdness, however, no attempt to c r i t i c i z e or to wish f o r a change i n the Man of law. There i s merely an a i r of k i n d l y acceptance tempering h i s amusement at these discrepancies which appear i n men. ' When we come to look at the Merchant through Chaucer's eyes, we perceive a contrast s i m i l a r to the one noted i n the Man of Law. The Merchant i s a shrewd business man; he knows how e s s e n t i a l to the success o f h i s ventures are an a i r of confidence and an appearance of p r o s p e r i t y . Upon h i s heed a Flaundryssh bever hat, His bootes clasped f a i r s and f e t i s l y . His resons he spak f u l solempnely, Sownynge alwey th^encrees of h i s wynnyng. 1 . To a l l appearances, he i s the succ e s s f u l merchant. But who knows? Ther wiste no wight that he was i n dette, So e s t a t l y was he of h i s governaunce With h i s bargaynes and with h i s chevysaunce. 2. Again we are made to r e a l i z e that the outward semblance of confidence may cover inward unce r t a i n t y . We smile as we perceive the i n c o n g r u i t y , not with any f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y but rather with a deepening sense o f the r i d d l e of human character. For we must own our l i k e n e s s to the Man of Law and the Merchant; what we know ourselves to be and to have done i s 1. I (A) 872-275. 2. I (A) £80-882. v e r y o f t e n a t v a r i a n c e w i t h what we wou ld have o t h e r men t h i n k o f ou r c h a r a c t e r and know o f our a c t i o n s . Our amusement a t the i n c o n g r u i t y to be obse rved i n the Man o f Law and the Merchan t i s m i n g l e d w i t h s y m p a t h e t i c u n d e r s t a n d i n g . The t h i r d type o f i n c o n g r u i t y i s one w h i c h seemed to have a p a r t i c u l a r i n t e r e s t f o r Chauce r , e s p e c i a l l y i n r e l a t i o n to o f f i c i a l s o f the c h u r c h . Among the t h i r t y odd p i l g r i m s , we can number o v e r a t h i r d as members o f the c l e r g y , r e g u l a r and s e c u l a r . Among the men o f r e l i g i o n o n l y the P a r s o n i s d e s c r i b e d as b e i n g , by h i s p r i n c i p l e s and l i f e , f i t t e d f o r the p r o f e s s i o n he f o l l o w s . The Monk, the F r i a r , the P a r d o n e r and the Summoner a re l i v i n g c o n t r a d i c t i o n s o f the f a i t h they p r e a c h . So m e r c i l e s s l y does Chaucer expose t h e i r h y p o c r i s i e s and t h e i r v i l l a i n i e s , so r u t h l e s s l y does he emphasize the i n c o n g r u i t y between what they are and what t hey s h o u l d be t h a t a t t i m e s h i s t r ea tmen t l o s e s the k i n d l i n e s s o f humour and becomes s a t i r i c . Of the g r o u p , the Monk r e c e i v e s the k i n d l i e s t t r e a t m e n t . T r u e , none o f h i s d i v e r g e n c e s f rom the way o f l i f e p r e s c r i b e d f o r a h o l y b r o t h e r i s p a s s e d o v e r . H i s l o v e o f h u n t i n g , o f f i n e ho r se s and dogs , o f r i c h food and c o s t l y r a i m e n t , i s d e s c r i b e d i n d e t a i l . H i s p h y s i c a l appearance i s the v e r y o p p o s i t e o f what one would e x p e c t ; He was a l o r d f u l f a t and i n good p o y n t , H i s eyen s t epe and r o l l y n g e i n h i s heed That stemed as a f o r n e y s o f a l e e d . 1. 1. I (A) 200-202. He was nat pale as a forpyned goost. 1. But h i s aberrations are described t o l e r a n t l y . There i s nothing h y p o c r i t i c a l about the Monk. He i s simply a man who p h y s i c a l l y and temperamentally i s f i t t e d to enjoy the good things of l i f e and who has no i n t e n t i o n of allo w i n g the accident of h i s c a l l i n g to keep him from doing so. Chaucer shows us the c o n t r a d i c t i o n between h i s tastes and h i s c a l l i n g i n such a way that we laugh t o l e r a n t l y , won over by the Monk's frank enjoyment of h i s "grehoundes," h i s "deyntee hors" and h i s " f a t swan." The F r i a r does not fare so w e l l at Chaucer's hands. The d e s c r i p t i o n of h i s v i l l a i n y i s s a t i r i c a l . He i s revealed as h y p o c r i t i c a l , a v a r i c i o u s and lecherous. He knew the tavernes wel i n every toun, And everich h o s t i l e r and tappestere Bet than a l a z a r and a beggestere. 2. He was the beste beggere i n h i s hous. For though a wydwe hadde noght a sho, So plesaunt was h i s "In p r i n e i p i o , " Yet wolde he have ferthyng er he wente. 3. He hadde maad f u l many a mariage, Of yonge women at h i s owene cost. 4. We are moved to laughter at the completeness of h i s roguery and at the contrast between t h i s roguery and the honesty he should have displayed. And yet, though Chaucer i s roused to s a t i r e 1. I (A) 205. 2. I (A) 240-243. 3 .1 (A) 252-255. 4. I (A) 212-213. by the c o r r u p t i o n o f the F r i a r , a t o u c h he re and t h e r e i n d i c a t e s a c e r t a i n r e l a x i n g o f h i s a t t i t u d e when he r e g a r d s the F r i a r no t as an o f f i c i a l o f the c h u r c h but as a man. He was a rogue but he was a wanton and a merry one; he was a h y p o c r i t e but " w e l l koude he synge and p l e y e n on a r o t e ; " he was g r eedy but H i s eyen t w y n k l e d i n h i s heed a r y g h t , As doon the s t e r r e s i n the f r o s t y n y g h t . 1 . Chaucer c a s t i g a t e s w i t h o u t mercy the baseness o f the F r i a r , but f o r the man he has the l a u g h t e r o f humour. The P a r d o n e r r e sembles the F r i a r i n t h a t he c a p t u r e s our a d m i r a t i o n a lmos t a g a i n s t ou r w i l l . H i s p h y s i c a l appearance i s r e p e l l e n t ? T h i s P a r d o n e r hadde bee r as y e l l o w as wex, B u t smothe i t hung as doo th a s t r i k e o f f l e x ; 2 . S w i c h g l a r y n g e eyen hadde he as a h a r e . 3 . And h i s h y p o c r i s y i s s i c k e n i n g ; And t h u s , w i t h f ayned f l a t e r y e and Jupes , He made the p e r s o n and the p e p l e h i s a p e s . 4 . H i s c y n i c i s m and u t t e r baseness f a s c i n a t e us but r e p e l u s . I f t hey a l o n e a r e c o n s i d e r e d , the i n c o n g r u i t y between what the P a r d o n e r i s and what he s h o u l d be i s too d r e a d f u l eve r to a rouse the l a u g h t e r o f humour. So comple t e , however , i s C h a u c e r ' s detachment t h a t , even w h i l e he enumerates the i n i q u i t i e s o f the P a r d o n e r , he i s a b l e to a p p r e c i a t e the r a s c a l ' s w i t , shamelessness and e l o q u e n c e . The rhyme o f "Rome" w i t h " t o me" would i n d i c a t e 1 . I (A) 267-268 . 2 . I (A) 675-676 . 3 . I (A) 684. 4 . I (A) 705-706 . t h a t Chaucer i s l a u g h i n g a t the impudent shamelessness o f a P a r d o n e r who, a l t h o u g h so l a t e l y come from Rome, b l i t h e l y c a r o l s a l o v e - s o n g : . « . t h e r r o o d a g e n t d l P a r d o n e r That s t r e i g h t was comen f r o the c o u r t o f Rome. F u l l o u d e he soon "Com h i d e r , l o v e to me!" 1 . When a d m i t t i n g the P a r d o n e r ' s a b i l i t y as a r e a d e r , Chaucer a g a i n touches on the shamelessness o f the roguej Wei coude he r ede a l e s s o u n o r a s t o r i e , But a l d e r b e s t he song an o f f e r t o r i e . 2 . D e s p i c a b l e as the P a r d o n e r i s i n a lmost e v e r y r e s p e c t , Ghaucer t akes sueh d e l i g h t i n the impudence o f the v i l l a i n t ha t i n s p i t e o f o u r s e l v e s we a r e moved to the l a u g h t e r o f humour. Our l a s t type o f i n c o n g r u i t y i s the most s u b t l e and most d e l i c a t e o f the f o u r . I t i s the i n c o n g r u i t y o f d i s o r g a n -i z a t i o n w i t h i n the c h a r a c t e r i t s e l f , when one q u a l i t y e x i s t s s i d e by s i d e w i t h a n o t h e r q u a l i t y i n some degree a n t i p a t h e t i c . to the f i r s t . The p i l g r i m who bes t e x e m p l i f i e s t h i s d e l i c a t e 3 d i s o r g a n i z a t i o n i s the Lady P r i o r e s s . There i s n o t h i n g a c t u a l l y 4 i n c o n g r u o u s about the Lady P r i o r e s s ' s b e i n g a nun . She i s s a i n t l y i n c h a r a c t e r and g e n t l e o f s p e e c h . The i n c o n g r u i t y l i e s , 1 . I ( A ) 669, 6 7 0 - 6 7 1 . 2 . I I (A) 709 -710 . 3 . The good P a r s o n , who though "benygne" and " f u l p a c i e n t " c o u l d "synbben s h a r p l y , " p r o v i d e s ano the r i n t e r e s t i n g example . 4 . There i s no p o s i t i v e c o n f l i o t between the c h a r a c t e r o f the L a d y P r i o r e s s and h e r p r o f e s s i o n . Recen t r e s e a r c h has done much to c o r r e c t the f o r m e r l y h e l d v i e w t h a t the L a d y P r i o r e s s was l a x i n ma t t e r s o f d i s c i p l i n e and m o r a l s . Compare S i s t e r M a d e l e v a , C h a u c e r ' s Hun and o t h e r E s s a y s , New Y o r k . 1 9 2 5 . 31 to borrow P r o f e s s o r Lowes*s p h r a s e , i n the " d e l i g h t f u l l y -". 1 i m p e r f e c t submergence o f the woman i n the n u n . " She has chosen to become a nun , to cu t h e r s e l f o f f from a l l w o r l d l y i n t e r e s t s and t o d e d i c a t e he r l i f e to the s e r v i c e o f God; y e t , s i d e by s i d e w i t h h e r r e a l d e v o t i o n t o he r c a l l i n g , t h e r e e x i s t s a g e n t l e i n t e r e s t i n the manners o f the w o r l d from w h i c h she has removed h e r s e l f , an i n t e r e s t w h i c h makes h e r b e a r i n g c o u r t l y and h e r t a b l e manners d a i n t y * And a l t h o u g h a l l h e r i n t e r e s t s a re now w i t h the c h u r c h and a l l her l o v e c o n s e c r a t e d to the w o r s h i p o f God, h e r n a t u r e u rges h e r to seek someth ing animate on w h i c h t o l a v i s h h e r a f f e c t i o n : Of smale houndes hadde she t h a t she f edde . Bu t soore wepte she i f oon o f hem were deed, Or i f men smoot i t w i t h a ye rde smer te ; And a l was c o n s c i e n c e and t endre h e r t e . 2 . Chaucer s m i l e s as he d e p i c t s these e x q u i s i t e l y d e l i c a t e c o n t r a d -i c t i o n s i n the c h a r a c t e r o f the P r i o r e s s but h i s s m i l e has a t ende r a d m i r a t i o n . The f o u r types o f i n c o n g r u i t y and examples o f each have now been c o n s i d e r e d . I n each example, we have obse rved t h a t Chauce r , w h i l e p r e s e n t i n g t h e i n c o n g r u i t y i n such a way as t o evoke our l a u g h t e r , a t the same t ime manages to a rouse l i k i n g f o r the p a r t i c u l a r p i l g r i m b e i n g d e s c r i b e d . B e f o r e l e a v i n g the P r o l o g u e , i t i s i n t e r e s t i n g to no te the d e v i c e s w h i c h Chaucer u se s i n r e v e a l i n g these i n c o n g r u i t i e s . As Chaucer i s s p e a k i n g d i r e c t l y to us i n the P r o l o g u e , we a r e a b l e to o b t a i n the re more d e f i n i t e examples o f h i s method than i n the T a l e s where he addresse us i n d i r e c t l y t h rough the medium o f h i s c r e a t i o n s .  1 . Lowes , J . L . A n g l . i a , X X X I I I , p . 4 4 0 . r -2 . I (A) 146 , 1 4 8 - 1 5 0 . The three most important devices used are overstatement, understatement and i r o n y . . In us i n g overstatement, Ghaucer draws a t t e n t i o n to h i s object by des c r i b i n g i t i n obviously exaggerated terms; i n using understatement, he obtains h i s e f f e c t by employing very r e s t r a i n e d terms; and i n using i r o n y , he s t a r t l e s us by saying the d i r e c t opposite of what he intends. 1 As has been pointed out above, Chaucer's a r t i s t i c i n s i g h t made him r e a l i z e that just as the matter of humour l a y i n i n c o n g r u i t -i e s , the manner l a y i n i n v e r s i o n . I f the humorist presents the in c o n g r u i t y simply as i t i s , i t may escape the reader's n o t i c e . He must a t t r a c t a t t e n t i o n to h i s point by d e s c r i b i n g i t as more than i t i s , as l e s s than i t i s or as the d i r e c t opposite of what i t i s . There i s a good example of over-statement i n the d e s c r i p t i o n of. the F r a n k l i n when Ghaucer chuckles at that worthy man's love of good food, and says that i n h i s house i t f a i r l y snowed baked meat: Withoute bake mete was nevere h i s hous Gf f i s s h and f1essh, and that so plentevous I t snewed i n h i s hous of mete and drynke. 2. The s i z e of the Cook's mouth i s l i k e w i s e exaggerated: His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys. 3. And the yo u t h f u l enthusiasm of the Squire i s made greater: So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale. 4. 1» P. (C 2. I (A) 343-545. 3. 11(A) 559. 4. I (A) 97-98. The c l a s s i c example o f unders ta tement i s found i n the d e s c r i p t i o n o f the Shipman when h i s manner o f k i l l i n g h i s enemies i s d e s c r i b e d t h u s ; I f t ha t he f a u g h t , and hadde the h y e r hond , B y w a t e r he sen te hem hoom to e v e r y l o n d . 1 , Bu t t h e r e a r e o t h e r examples . The r e l i g i o u s s c e p t i c i s m ; s u p p o s e d l y common among the p h y s i c i a n s o f the t i m e i s i n d i c a t e d i n the f o l l o w i n g l i n e : H i s s t u d i e was b u t l i t e l on the B i b l e . S. And the comprehens ive knowledge o f l o v e p o s s e s s e d by the W i f e o f B a t h i s l i g h t l y touched o n : Of remedies o f l o v e she knew p e r chaunoe . 3 . Of the d e v i c e o f i r o n y , however , we can f i n d more examples than o f the o t h e r two d e v i c e s pu t t o g e t h e r . As an In s t rumen t to i l l u m i n a t e the d i v e r s i t i e s o f c h a r a c t e r , the d e v i c e seemed to s u i t C h a u c e r ' s g e n i u s . The Monk, f o r example , 4 , 5: i s a " f a i r p r e l a a t , " the F r i a r i s a "nob le p o s t " to h i s o r d e r , 6 7 the Merchan t i s a "wor thy man" and the P a r d o n e r i s " g e n t i l . ' ' ' The h y p o c r i s y o f the F r i a r i s r e v e a l e d by the mordant i r o n y o f 1 . I (A) 3 9 9 - 4 0 0 . B. I (A) 4 3 8 . 3 . I (A) 4 7 5 . 4. I (A) 804 . 5 . 1 (A) 214 . 6 . I (A) 883 . 7 . 1 (A) 669 . the f o l l o w i n g passage i n the l a s t four l i n e s of which we are given the F r i a r ' s own t r a i n of thought: He knew the taverneB wel i n every toun, And everich h o s t i l e r and tappestere Bet than a l a z a r or;a beggestere; For unto swioh a worthy man as he Accorded nat, as by h i s f a c u l t e e , To have with sike l a z a r s aqueyntaunoe. I t i s nat honest, i t may nat avaunce, For to deelen w i t h no swich p o r a i l l e , But a l w i t h r i c h e and s e l l e r e s of v i t a i l l e . 1. l a t e r , the dishonesty of the Maniciple and h i s success i n f o o l i n g h i s learned employers are s i m i l a r l y dealt w i t h : How i s nat that of God a f u l f a i r grace, That swich a lewed mannes wit s h a l pace The wisdom of an heep of l e r n e d men? 2. Having examined the material land the manner of Chaucer's humour i n the Prologue* l e t us now turn to a consideration of the Tales. The four types of incongruity which were observed i n the Prologue are present here i n a more h i g h l y developed form. Our perception of the M i l l e r ' s animal!ty, fo r example, i s sharpened by the coarse f a b l i a u he t e l l s . Our r e c o g n i t i o n of the contrast between the r e a l and the apparent i s confirmed when, on hearing h i s t a l e , we learn that, beneath h i s e x t e r i o r of confidence and p r o s p e r i t y , the Merchant i s a b i t t e r , d i s i l l u s i o n e d man. Our knowledge of the F r i a r ' s u n f i t n e s s f o r h i s work i s increased as we l i s t e n f i r s t to h i s a l t e r c a t i o n with the Summoner, and second to h i s t a l e at the l a t t e r ' s expense. And our i n t e r e s t i n the subtle d i s o r g a n i z a t i o n of character observable i n the p o r t r a i t of the P r i o r e s s i s 1. I (A) 240-248. 2. I (A) 573-575. i n c r e a s e d as we r e a l i z e t ha t he r t a l e emphasizes t ha t d i s o r g a n i z a t i o n , she t e l l s a con te d e v o t , a p e r f e c t t a l e f o r a n u n , but i n i t h e r womanly f e e l i n g f i n d s an escape i n her p i t y f o r the mother and the l i t t l e b o y . C h a u c e r ' s humour, t h e n , c o n t i n u e s to work upon the f o u r t ypes o f i n c o n g r u i t y and to p r e s e n t them t o us i n e v e r g r o w i n g and d e v e l o p i n g d e t a i l . I n t e r e s t i n g as an o b s e r v a t i o n o f t h i s g rowth might b e , we must t u r n ou r a t t e n t i o n to new i n c o n g r u i t i e s w h i c h appear i n the T a l e s as a r e s u l t o f the method o f p r e s e n t a t i o n . T h i s method o f p r e s e n t a t i o n i s d r a m a t i c . Whereas i n the P r o l o g u e , Chaucer i s the t a l k e r , i n the T a l e s he i s the l i s t e n e r . The d e s c r i p t i o n o f c h a r a c t e r i n the P r o l o g u e i s changed to d r a m a t i c a c t i o n i n the T a l e s . As we watch the d i f f e r e n t a c t s o f t h i s human comedy succeed each o t h e r b e f o r e our eyes , we p e r c e i v e new i n c o n g r u i t i e s i n a d d i t i o n t o those we have a l r e a d y o b s e r v e d . They a r e i n c o n g r u i t i e s w h i c h a r i s e as a r e s u l t o f the r e l a t i o n o f one human b e i n g to ano the r and a re as v a r i e d and numerous as a re the p e r m u t a t i o n s and c o m b i n a t i o n s p o s s i b l e i n a h i g h l y complex s o c i e t y . So d i v e r s e a r e t hey t h a t to c l a s s i f y them w o u l d be i m p o s s i b l e . E a c h new s i t u a t i o n p r e s e n t s a new example . We s h a l l s e l e c t t h r e e o f the most i n t e r e s t i n g i l l u s t r a t i o n s and d i s c u s s them i n d e t a i l . The f i r s t one o c c u r s e a r l y i n the T a l e s . H a r r y B a i l l y , t h e h o s t , who i s the s e l f - a p p o i n t e d mas ter o f ce remon ies , has had the p i l g r i m s draw l o t s as to who s h a l l t e l l the f i r s t t a l e . To the s a t i s f a c t i o n o f eve ryone , the l o t f a l l s (whether by a c c i d e n t or d e s i g n ) upon the K n i g h t . The c h i v a l r i c romance h© r e l a t e s i s a f i t t i n g one f o r a man who " l o v e d c h i v a l r i e , 1 t r o u t h e and honour , fredom and c u r t e i s i e . " The whole tone o f the l o n g t a l e i s g i v e n i n the l a s t few l i n e s ? And Emelye hym l o v e t h so t e n d r e l y , And he h i r e s e r v e t h a l so g e n t i l l y , That neve re was t h e r no word hem M t w e n e Of j a l o u s i e o r any oo the r t e e n e . 2 . How the t a l e i s a v e r y l o n g one ; i t i s g e n e r o u s l y d e c o r a t e d w i t h d e s c r i p t i o n s o f the temples of Mars and Venus , o f the tournament grounds and so o n . The whole a c t i o n o f the s t o r y i s g u i d e d by the i d e a l s o f c h i v a l r y . Palamon and A r c i t e a r e k n i g h t s b e f o r e they a r e men and E m e l y e , whom they s e r v e " g e n t i l l y , " i s a l a d y b e f o r e she i s a woman. There i s a c e r t a i n a i r o f u n r e a l i t y about t h i s c o u r t l y t a l e . How do the P i l g r i m s r e c e i v e t h i s t a l e ? W i t h i n t e r e s t and a p p r e c i a t i o n , i t w o u l d seem: Whan tha t the Knyght has thus h i s t a l e y t o o l d , I n a l the r o u t e nas t h e r yong ne O o l d That ne seyde i t was a n o b l e s t o r i e And w o r t h y f o r to drawen to memorie . 3 . They a l l t h i n k i t was a " n o b l e " s t o r y and " w o r t h y " to be remembered. The words chosen to d e s c r i b e i t a re words f i t t e d to the K n i g h t h i m s e l f and a r e the l i t t l e t r i b u t e o f the P i l g r i m s to the K n i g h t ' s n o b i l i t y o f c h a r a c t e r . Bu t a t the end of t h i s passage comes a v e r y s i g n i f i c a n t l i n e : And namely the g e n t i l s e v e r i c h o n . 4 . 1 . I (A) 4 5 . 2 . I (A) 3103-3106 . 3 . I (A) 3109-3112 . 4 . I (A) 3113 . E v e r y b o d y , e s p e c i a l l y the g e n t l e s , thought i t a good s t o r y . Ghaucer had h i s eye on those who were no t g e n t l e s , the M i l l e r , the Cook, the ^Shipman and t h e i r f r i e n d s . These " c h e r l s " must have become r e s t i v e d u r i n g the K n i g h t ' s t a l e , no t o n l y because o f i t s l e n g t h , but a l s o because of the p e o p l e , the l i f e , the whole sys tem i t d e p i c t e d . The c h i v a l r i c code was to the " c h e r l s " an a r t i f i c i a l , an a lmos t i n c o m p r e h e n s i b l e way o f l i f e . Such r e f i n e m e n t s , such " g e n t i l e s s e " were n o t o n l y unknown i n t h e i r l i f e but u n s u i t a b l e to i t . As the Cook, the Shipman and the Reeve l i s t e n e d to the K n i g h t ' s t a l e , they must have f e l t r i s e i n them a l l the uneasy h o s t i l i t y , a l l the contempt w i t h w h i c h most men, e s p e c i a l l y i g n o r a n t ones , r e g a r d a sys tem the d i r e c t o p p o s i t e o f t h e i r own. The i m p l i e d r e f l e c t i o n upon t h e i r p a r t i c u l a r way o f l i f e makes them c l i n g a l l the more f i e r c e l y to i t . Bu t the K n i g h t , a f t e r a l l , i s the K n i g h t , a r e p r e s e n t -a t i v e o f the r u l i n g c l a s s o f t h e i r w o r l d ; and the s t o r y i t s e l f i s i n t e r e s t i n g , the a d v e n t u r e s o f Palamon and A r c i t e s u f f i c i e n t l y e n t e r t a i n i n g . Out o f r e s p e o t f o r t he K n i g h t , the c h u r l s c o n c e a l t h e i r tu ieas in ' ess ' l under . l thecvimpl ied c r i t i c i s m o f t h e i r manners . O n l y Ghaucer , whom n o t h i n g e s c a p e s , obse rves t h a t e v e r y b o d y , e s p e c i a l l y the g e n t l e s , has en joyed the s t o r y . But t h e r e i s one c h u r l who i s unab le to c o n c e a l the e f f e c t the K n i g h t ' s s t o r y has had on h i m . T h i s i s the M i l l e r , who i s so drunk t h a t he f o r g e t s d i s c r e t i o n ; 38 The M i l l e r e , t h a t f o r dronken was a l p a l e , S o . t h a t unnethe upon h i s h o r s he s a t , He n o l d e a v a l e h n e i t h e r hood ne h a t , life abyde no man f o r h i s c u r t e i s i e . 1 . G i v e n b o l d n e s s by l i q u o r , he r o a r s , w i t h o a t h s , an o f f e r to t e l l a t a l e : Bu t i n P i l a t e s voys he gan to c r i e , And swoor , " B y armes, and by b l o o d and bones , I kan a n o b l e t a l e f o r t h e nones , W i t h w h i c h I w o l now q u i t e the Knygh te s t a l e . " 2. Note h e r e the d e l i b e r a t e use o f the word " n o b l e " the v e r y e p i t h e t used by the P i l g r i m s to d e s c r i b e the K n i g h t ' s t a l e . The M i l l e r i s g o i n g to r epay the K n i g h t ' s t a l e w i t h one o f h i s own, w i t h a t a l e i n w h i c h men and women as he knows them a re d e p i c t e d . The a t t i t u d e o f these men and women to each o t h e r i s the v e r y o p p o s i t e o f " g e n t i l e s s e . " H i s t a l e , t o o , i s g o i n g to be a t the expense o f h i s t r a d i t i o n a l enemy w i t h i n Ms own c l a s s , the Reeve . Anger has on the Reeve an e f f e c t s i m i l a r to t h a t w h i c h d r i n k has on the M i l l e r . I t sweeps away h i s s e l f - r e s t r a i n t and causes h i m to r e t a l i a t e w i t h an i n d e c e n t t a l e a t the M i l l e r ' s expense . The q u a r r e l o f the M i l l e r and the Reeve i s i n t e n s e l y d r a m a t i c but i t s h o u l d not make us l o s e s i g h t o f the c o n t r a s t between the K n i g h t ' s t a l e and the R e e v e ' s and the M i l l e r ' s t a l e s • C h a u c e r ' s humour i s a t work h e r e ; he rouse s our l a u g h t e r a t the c o n t r a s t between the men, the w o r t h y and d i g n i f i e d K n i g h t on one hand and the r a s c a l l y and j a n g l i n g 1. I (A) 3120-3123. 2. I (A) 3124-3127. 39 M i l l e r and Reeve on the o t h e r , and between the t a l e s , the t a l e o f g e n t i l e s s e and t h a t o f h a r l o t r y , and , above a l l , between the two modes o f l i f e whioh these men and t hese t a l e s r e p r e s e n t . He p e r c e i v e s w i t h amusement the u n a c c o u n t a b l e c o n t r a d i c t i o n s o f a w o r l d i n w h i c h one s e t o f men can be governed by a code d i a m e t r i c a l l y opposed to t ha t w h i c h r u l e s a n o t h e r s e t . One code l a y s g r e a t emphasis upon c e r t a i n c o n v e n t i o n s w h i c h compel a man to be brave i n b a t t l e , hones t i n h i s d e a l i n g s w i t h o t h e r men and humble i n h i s w o r s h i p o f h i s l a d y . To such an extreme a r e these c o n v e n t i o n s c a r r i e d t h a t the p e o p l e who a r e governed by them seem to l o s e the humani ty t h a t even a s l i g h t f a l l i n g away f rom the code would g i v e . W i t h the o t h e r s e t o f men, t h e r e i s no l a c k o f humani ty but r a t h e r an e x c e s s . The r u l e i s e v e r y man f o r h i m s e l f ; one i s as b rave as i t i s sa fe to be , as hones t as c i r c u m s t a n c e s compe l , and as humble w i t h women as s u i t s o n e ' s c o n v e n i e n c e . Through C h a u c e r ' s eyes , we see the i n c o n g r u i t y between these two codes , a n d , w i t h h i s h e l p , a c h i e v e a s m i l i n g accep tance o f s u c h a c o n t r a d i c t i o n . B o t h codes had t h e i r p r o p e r p l a c e i n C h a u c e r ' s w o r l d ; b o t h f i t t e d the peop le who h e l d them. Our second example o f i n c o n g r u i t y a r i s i n g from the d r a m a t i c n a t u r e o f the T a l e s o c c u r s i n the c o n t r a s t between the Merchant and the S q u i r e and t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e t a l e s . I t l i e s i n the d i f f e r e n c e i n o u t l o o k between a young man and a m i d d l e - a g e d man, between one who i s young and h o p e f u l , e n t h u s i a s t i c about the f u t u r e , and one who i s o l d and d e s p a i r i n g , e m b i t t e r e d by the p a s t . The p i c t u r e of the S q u i r e 40 i n the P r o l o g u e i s i n s t i n c t w i t h y o u t h and a rdors A l o v y e r e and a l u s t y b a e h e l e r , W i t h l o k k e s c r u l l e as they were l e y d i n D r e s s e . Of twenty y e e r o f age he was , I g e s s e . " 1. • • • « • » Embrouded was h e , as i t were a meede A l f u l o f f r e s s h e f l o u r e s , whyte and r e e d e . a. ................ ...... He was as f r e s s h as i s the month o f May. 3 . B u t the p i c t u r e o f the Merchan t i s a c a r e f u l l y r e s t r a i n e d one. The Merchan t p r e s e n t s a c e r t a i n e x t e r i o r to the w o r l d ; we can o n l y guess what i s g o i n g on b e h i n d the mask o f c o n f i d e n c e w h i c h he assumes. He has l e a r n e d to h i d e what he i s t h i n k i n g and f e e l i n g f rom the w o r l d a b o u t h i m . I t i s o n l y a f t e r he has l i s t e n e d to the W i f e o f B a t h ' s P r o l o g u e and T a l e , and has h e a r d the C l e r k ' s nea t r e j o i n d e r to the W i f e i n h i s t a l e o f G r i s e l d a , t h a t t he M e r c h a n t , unab l e t o s t i f l e the b i t t e r n e s s and p a i n w h i c h he has so f a r c o n c e a l e d , b u r s t s o u t ; "Wepying and w a y l y n g , c a r e o o t h e r sorwe I knowe y n o g h , on even and a-morwe," Quod the M a r c h a n t . . 4. " A ! goode s i r e H o o s t , I have ywedded hee T h i s e monthes two, and moore n a t , p a r d e e ; And y e t , I t rowe , he t ha t a l h i s l y v e W y f l e e s h a t h been , thogh t h a t men wolde h im r y v e . Unto the h e r t e , ne koude i n no manere T e l l e n so much sorwe as I now heere Koude t e l l e n o f my wyves c u r s e d n e s s e ! " 5 . He goes on to t e l l a s t o r y w h i c h i s no t r e m a r k a b l e f o r i t s 1 . I ( A ) ' 8 0 - 8 8 . 2. I (A) 8 9 - 9 0 . 3 . I (A) 9 3 . 4. I V (E) 1313-1815 . 5 . I V (E) 1233 -1239 . 41 p l o t - a v e r y a n c i e n t and i n d e c e n t j e s t - b u t f o r the m e r c i l e s s s a t i r e w i t h w h i c h the Merchant d e p i c t s the d o t a r d J a n u a r y . The"whole t a l e i s an e x p r e s s i o n o f h i s own u t t e r d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t about women, l o v e , even l i f e . And s i d e by s i d e w i t h t h i s t a l e , Chaucer p l a c e s the one t o l d by the S q u i r e . The Host t u rns to the young man and asks h i m f o r a t a l e about l o v e . " S q u i e r , come n e e r , i f i t you re w i l l e be And s ey somwhat o f l o v e ; f o r c e r t e s ye Eonnen the reon as muche as any man." 1 . The S q u i r e i s modest bu t o f f e r s to do what he can to f u l f i l l the H o s t ' s r e q u e s t . He thereupon embarks upon a h i g h l y i m a g i n a t i v e romance o f Gambuscan and the B r a z e n H o r s e . I t i s a t a l e o f adven tu re and enchantment , f u l l o f m a g i c , o f j o y and wonder, o f a l l the y o u t h f u l dreams w h i c h t h ronged a " b r a i n , n e w - s t u f f * d , i n y o u t h , w i t h t r iumphs gay o f o l d romance . " The fragment o f the S q u i r e ' s T a l e i s the v e r y a n t i t h e s i s i n atmosphere and o u t l o o k o f t ha t t o l d by the M e r c h a n t . I n t h i s j u x t a p o s i t i o n , Chaucer has drawn our a t t e n t i o n to the c o n t r a s t between i l l u s i o n and d i s i l l u s i o n , between i d e a l i s m and c y n i c i s m , between y o u t h and age . We cannot change these a s p e c t s o f human n a t u r e even i f we w i shed to do s o . But o u r knowledge o f them can g i v e us a s u b t l e p l e a s u r e as we con templa te the drama o f l i f e , a: p l e a s u r e tha t i s touched w i t h s adnes s . "The s t r o k e o f the g r ea t h u m o r i s t , " says M e r e d i t h , " i s w o r l d - w i d e , 1. V (F) 1-3. w i t h l i g h t s o f t r a g e d y i n h i s l a u g h t e r . " A sense o f the t r u t h o f M e r e d i t h ' s words comes to us a s , even w h i l e we are aware o f the t r a g e d y o f the M e r c h a n t ' s d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t and the p o i g n a n c y o f the S q u i r e ' s dreams, we f i n d i n these two, t h e i r t a l e s , and t h e i r a t t i t u d e s to l i f e , a c o n t r a s t w h i c h r o u s e s , i f n o t the l a u g h t e r , a t l e a s t the s m i l e o f humour. Our l a s t example of i n c o n g r u i t y p r e s e n t e d by the T a l e s i s an e x t r a o r d i n a r i l y complex one . I t r e sembles the o t h e r s i t u a t i o n s a l r e a d y examined i n t h a t i t c o n t r a s t s d i f f e r i n g p o i n t s o f v i e w , i t embraces f o u r . The s u b j e c t d i s c u s s e d i s m a r r i a g e ; and the four p e o p l e who c o n t r i b u t e to the d i s c u s s i o n a r e the W i f e o f B a t h , the C l e r k o f O x f o r d , the Merchan t and the F r a n k l i n . The W i f e o f B a t h opens the d i s c u s s i o n by d e c l a r i n g i n h e r P r o l o g u e and i l l u s t r a t i n g i n he r T a l e the d o c t r i n e tha t a happy m a r r i a g e depends on the w i f e ' s b e i n g head of the house and the h u s b a n d ' s a c k n o w l e d g i n g her s o v e r e i g n t y . The W i f e speaks from e x p e r i e n c e ; she has had f i v e husbands and has mas te red them a l l . The C l e r k , when o p p o r t u n i t y o f f e r s , r e p l i e s to the W i f e by t e l l i n g the t a l e o f the p a t i e n t G r i s e l d a , w h i c h d e p i c t s the complete s u b j u g a t i o n of a w i f e i n m a r r i a g e . He s e t s up a g a i n the o r t h o d o x t ene t t h a t m a r r i a g e i s based on w i f e l y o b e d i e n c e . The c o n t r a s t between these two o p p o s i n g d o c t r i n e s g a i n s i n f o r c e and s u b t l e t y i f we keep i n mind the p r o m u l g a t o r s . The W i f e i s the l i v i n g 1 . M e r e d i t h , G . , op_. c i t . p . 7 8 . i l l u s t r a t i o n igf h e r own t h e o r y and one o f he r v i c t i m s has been a c l e r k , a f e l l o w alumnus o f our G l e r k . V o i c e v e r y l o u d , h e r j o v i a l f ace s h i n i n g w i t h e x c i t e m e n t , she r e l a t e s w i t h r e l i s h he r a d v e n t u r e s i n m a r r i a g e . The G l e r k i s p a l e and q u i e t , c o n t r o l l e d i n manner and s p e e c h . He i s i n the m i d s t o f h i s t a l e b e f o r e the o t h e r p i l g r i m s r e a l i z e the s i g n i f i c a n c e o f h i s s t o r y . A t the end , he admi t s t h a t i t i s d i f f i c u l t to f i n d a G r i s e l d a ; I t were f u l h a r d to fynde now-a-dayes I n a l a toun G r i s i l d i s t h r e or two. 1. And then he i r o n i c a l l y a d v i s e s a l l w i v e s to f o l l o w the example o f the W i f e o f B a t h , and to l e t t h e i r husbands "wepe, and wrynge , and w a i l l e ' * as much as they l i k e . The Merchan t speaks n e x t and the burden o f h i s c o m p l a i n t i s the unhapp iness o f h i s m a r r i e d l i f e . H i s w i f e i s a n y t h i n g but a G - r i s e l d a ; "Ther i s a l o n g and l a r g e d i f f e r e n c e B i t w i x G r i s i l d i s g r e t e p a c i e n c e And of my w y f the passyng c r u e l t e e . " 2 . And i f a man a l l o w s h i s w i f e s o v e r e i g n t y , he o b t a i n s , as the W i f e o f B a t h ' s P r o l o g u e shows, n o t h a p p i n e s s , but m e r e l y s u r c e a s e from s t r i f e . To the M e r c h a n t , t h e r e i s no h a p p i n e s s o b t a i n a b l e i n mar r i age ; . "We wedded men l y v e n I n sorwe and c a r e . " 3 . The mar r i age argument might end on t h i s n o t e , d i d n o t F r a n k l i n , when h i s t u r n comes, p ropose a s o l u t i o n . There must 1 . I V (E) 1164-1165 . 2 . I V (E) 1223-1225 . 3 . I V (E) 1228 . 44 be no t a l k o f s o v e r e i g n t y i n m a r r i a g e : Wommen o f k y n d e , d e s i r e n l i b e r t e e , And na t to been c o n s t r e y n e d as a t h r a l And so doon men, i f I sooth, seyen s h a l . 1. B o t h W i f e and G l e r k a r e answered h e r e ; as f o r the Merchant he i s g i v e n h i s r e p l y i n the p i c t u r e o f A r v e r a g u s , who, when m a r r i e d , " l y v e t h i n b l i s s e and i n s o l a s . " I f t he r e i s m u t u a l f o r b e a r a n c e and l o v e between husband and w i f e , t he r e w i l l be h a p p i n e s s . B u t even as we l i s t e n to the F r a n k l i n ' s g e n t l y worded pronouncements on m a r r i a g e , our eyes a re on the W i f e , the C l e r k and t h e M e r c h a n t . F o r the W i f e i s what she i s , a b o u n c i n g , j o v i a l l y d o m i n e e r i n g woman; and b e i n g what she i s , she w i l l demand the s o v e r e i g n t y . And the C l e r k i s what he i s a q u i e t s c h o l a r who has l i t t l e o r no e x p e r i e n c e of the p r a c t i c a l n e c e s s i t i e s o f l i f e - e s p e c i a l l y m a r r i e d l i f e ; and b e i n g what he i s , he w i l l c o n t i n u e to pay homage to a way o f l i f e t ha t i s i m p r a c t i c a l and to wax i r o n i c a l ove r those who r e j e c t i t . And the Merchan t ? Men l i k e the Merchant w i l l c o n t i n u e to marry w i v e s who i n age and temperament a re u n s u i t e d to t h e i r husbands , and to l i v e to r epen t t h e i r f o l l y . And the F r a n k l i n w i l l c o n t i n u e t o pour c o u n s e l s o f m o d e r a t i o n i n t o unheed ing e a r s . As Chaucer watches the mar r i age a c t o f h i s comedy p l a y i t s e l f o u t , he s h a r e s w i t h us h i s r e a l i z a t i o n o f the i n c o n g r u i t y between d i f f e r i n g a t t i t u d e s to a g i v e n q u e s t i o n , and shows us those a t t i t u d e s as the i n e v i t a b l e outcome o f 1 . V (F ) 767-769 . i n d i v i d u a l temperament. These d i f f e r i n g a t t i t u d e s o r o u t l o o k s can neve r be c o m p l e t e l y r e c o n c i l e d ; i f t hey c o u l d , we s h o u l d cease to be human b e i n g s , and become mach ines . I n t h e i r e x i s t e n c e and t h e i r i r r e c o n c i l a b i l i t y , i n t h e i r c o n t r a d i c t i o n s and a b s u r d i t i e s , the h u m o r i s t d e l i g h t s . And i n l a u g h t e r a t t h i s type o f i n c o n g r u i t y , t h e r e can be no doubt o f our sympathy, no doubt o f the absence of a sense o f s u p e r i o r i t y ; we o u r s e l v e s , i n our i n d i v i d u a l d i f f e r e n c e s and d i f f e r i n g p e r s o n a l i t i e s , a r e p r o v i d i n g t h e m a t e r i a l i n w h i c h the i n c o n g r u i t i e s a r e p e r c e i v e d . As has been p o i n t e d out b e f o r e , the i n c o n g r u i t i e s j u s t d i s c u s s e d a r i s e when human b e i n g s come i n t o C o n t a c t w i t h one a n o t h e r , i n s h o r t , i n t h e i r s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s . I t i s t h i s f a c t t ha t makes C h a u c e r ' s d r a ma t i c p r e s e n t a t i o n o f the C a n t e r b u r y T a l e s a' n e c e s s i t y as w e l l as an i n s p i r a t i o n . I t was o n l y by g i v i n g h i s P i l g r i m s f r e e r e i n t h a t Chaucer c o u l d a c c o m p l i s h h i s p u r p o s e . Once he has e r e a t e d h i s c h a r a c t e r s , he a l l o w s h i s c r e a t i o n s , by a c t i o n and i n t e r a c t i o n o f t h e i r p e r s o n a l i t i e s , to make s i t u a t i o n s t h a t w i l l shed l i g h t no t o n l y on i n d i v i d u a l p e r v e r s i t i e s but a l s o o n the i n c o n g r u i t i e s o f any o r g a n i z e d s o c i e t y o f men. Whereas , i n the P r o l o g u e , Chaucer u sed the d e v i c e s o f o v e r - s t a t e m e n t , unders ta tement and i r o n y to g i v e p o i n t to h i s p e r c e p t i o n o f i n c o n g r u i t y , h e r e , i n the T a l e s , he uses the d r a m a t i c method. S h o u l d we f i n d the d e v i c e s used i n the P r o l o g u e , these d e v i c e s w i l l be used by the p i l g r i m s , n o t by Chaucer h i m s e l f . They may be used to g i v e p o i n t to the i n d i v i d u a l p i l g r i m ' s humour bu t to C h a u c e r ' s o n l y i n d i r e c t l y , i n the sense t h a t the p i l g r i m i s h i s c r e a t i o n . Once we have r e a l i z e d the n e c e s s i t y o f d r ama t i c p r e s e n t a t i o n , the r e a s o n f o r C h a u c e r ' s d e l i b e r a t e s e l f - e f f a c e m e n t becomes a t once c l e a r . We must l o s e a l l sense o f h im as a p e r s o n and t h i n k i n terms o f the P i l g r i m s he has c r e a t e d . On ly by e f f a c i n g h i m s e l f can Chaucer c r e a t e the i l l u s i o n t ha t the P i l g r i m s a re r e a l p e o p l e w i t h h i m s e l f among them, and i l l u m i n a t e f o r us the i n c o n g r u i t i e s between human p e r s o n a l i t i e s r e v e a l e d i n t h e i r c o n t a c t s w i t h one a n o t h e r . So f a r , i n d i s c u s s i n g the C a n t e r b u r y g a l e s , we have made o n l y p a s s i n g r e f e r e n c e to the f a b l i a u x , w h i c h p r e s e n t a s p e c i a l p r o b l e m i n our s t u d y o f humour. I t i s i m p o s s i b l e to i g n o r e t h e i r p r e s e n c e ; t h e r e a r e s i x f a b l i a u x among the twen ty -f o u r t a l e s . Chaucer c o n s i d e r e d the type so i m p o r t a n t tha t he u sed the f a b l i a u more o f t e n than any o t h e r l i t e r a r y fo rm, e i t h e r the romance o f c h i v a l r y , o r the b e a s t - e p i c . o r the l e g e n d or the mock-sermon. There i s no doubt t ha t the e f f e c t o f the f a b l i a u x upon the P i l g r i m s , as i t i s upon u s , was to a rouse l a u g h t e r . D i v e r s e f o l k d i v e r s e l y they seyde , B u t f o r the moore p a r t t h e y loughs and p l e y d e . 1. B u t what k i n d o f l a u g h t e r was i t ? Was i t humorous l a u g h t e r ? The g e n e r a l o p i n i o n seems to be t h a t i t was . R o o t , s p e a k i n g o f C h a u c e r ' s humour, s a y s : " C h a u c e r ' s humour i s as p r o t e a n i n i t s v a r i e t y as any o t h e r o f h i s q u a l i t i e s . I t r anges f rom b road f a r c e and b o i s t e r o u s h o r s e - p l a y i n the t a l e s of the M i l l e r and the Summoner to the 1. I (A) 3856-3857 . 1 s l y i n s i n u a t i o n s o f the K n i g h t ' s T a l e . " The f a b l i a u x , a c c o r d i n g to R o b i n s o n , "were r e a l i s t i c i n 2 c h a r a c t e r , g e n e r a l l y humorous, and o f t e n i n d e c e n t . " And K i t t r e d g e speaks o f the Summoner's T a l e as c o n t a i n i n g a " v i v i d and d e l i c i o u s l y humorous account o f the methods o f a begg ing 3 f r i a r . " Where in does the humour r e s i d e ? Do the j e s t s themselvej a rouse "humorous l a u g h t e r ? " L e t us t u r n to the f i r s t two f a b l i a u x and r e v i e w r a p i d l y t h e i r p l o t s and the c i r c u m s t a n c e s i n w h i c h the t a l e s a r e t o l d . The K n i g h t has j u s t f i n i s h e d h i s s t o r y and the Hos t i n v i t e d the Monk to t ake h i s t u r n , when the drunken M i l l e r , unab le t o c o n t r o l any l o n g e r the p u g n a c i t y wh ich l i q u o r and the c h i v a l r i o t a l e have combined to produce i n h i m , b reaks i n and i n s i s t s on t e l l i n g a t a l e . W i t h a d runken c h u c k l e a t h i s own w i t , he says t h a t h i s s t o r y w i l l be a " legende and a l y f " and w i l l t e l l ' 'Bothe o f a c a r p e n t e r and o f h i s wyf , 4 How t h a t a c l e r k h a t h s e t the w r i g h t e s c a p . " The Reeve , who has been a c a r p e n t e r , i s f u r i o u s at the i m p l i e d i n s u l t . A q u i c k l y - a n g e r e d man, he t u r n s upon the M i l l e r w i t h ; " . S t y n t thy c l a p p e l L a t be t h y lewed dronken h a r l o t r y e . I t i s a synne and eek a g r e e t f o l y e 1. R o o t , R . K * , The P o e t r y o f Chauce r , B o s t o n , Hew Y o r k , Houghton M i f f l i n Company, p . 3 8 . 2. R o b i n s o n , F . I T . , op . c i t . p . 7 . 3. K i t t r e d g e , C . L . , o p . c i t . p .25. 4. I (A) 3142-3143. To apey ren any man, o r hym defame, And eek to b ryngen wyves i n s w i c h fame." 1 . Immed ia t e ly a b i t t e r q u a r r e l i s under way. The R e e v e ' s p r o t e s t s m e r e l y s t i f f e n the M i l l e r ' s r e s o l v e and i n c r e a s e h i s d e t e r m i n a t i o n to p o i n t h i s s t o r y a t h i s t r a d i t i o n a l enemy, the R e e v e . He p roceeds to t e l l the s t o r y o f how a c a r p e n t e r i s t r i c k e d by h i s w i f e and he r l o v e r N i c h o l a s ; t h e r e - i s . a s u b s i d i a r y p l o t i n w h i c h A b s o l o n , a second l o v e r o f A l i s o n , i s f i r s t t r i c k e d by and t h e n t r i c k s N i c h o l a s and A l i s o n , and w h i c h adds c o n s i d e r a b l y to the g e n e r a l i n d e c e n c y o f the t a l e . There a re many i n c o n g r u i t i e s i n the s t o r y , the most impor t an t b e i n g t h a t between c o n f i d e n c e o f the c a r p e n t e r i n h i s w i f e and N i c h o l a s and the t r e a c h e r y o f the p a i r . T h i s i n c o n g r u i t y r a i s e s a l a u g h a t the expense o f a c a r p e n t e r who i s f o o l e d by h i s . w i f e . I t i s p l a i n that the M i l l e r i s d i r e c t i n g t h i s l a u g h a t the Reeve . Had no t the Reeve s a i d i t was a s i n to s c a n d a l men and t h e i r w i v e s ? The Reeve , i n d e f e n d i n g w i v e s , has o n l y shown h i s own c r e d u l i t y and made h i m s e l f the b u t t o f the M i l l e r ' j o k e . The M i l l e r c o n c l u d e s h i s t a l e w i t h a m a l i c i o u s l e e r a t h i s enemy; They seyde , "The man i s wood, my l e e v e b r o t h e r ; " And e v e r y w i g h t gan l a u g h e n a t t h i s s t r y f . Thus swyved was t h i s c a r p e n t e r i s w y f . 3 . The i n c o n g r u i t y n e c e s s a r y f o r humour i s p r e s e n t , but i s the sense of s u p e r i o r i t y absen t? I s t h e r e the needed sympathy? The c a r p e n t e r i s the v i c t i m o f the j o k e , and th rough h im the 1 . I (A) 3144-3148. S. I (A) 3848-3850 . 49 Reeve who w r i t h e s a t h i s h u m i l i a t i o n b e f o r e the P i l g r i m s : Ne a t t h i s t a l e I saugh no man hym g r e v e , But i t were o n l y Osewold t h e R e v e . B y cause he was o f c a r p e n t e r i s c r a f t A l i t e l i r e i n h i s h e r t e y l a f t ; 1 . The l a u g h w h i c h i s r a i s e d a t the expense o f the c a r p e n t e r o f the s t o r y , o f h i s w i f e and of he r l o v e r , and even o f A b s o l o n , i s s u r e l y the l a u g h t e r o f r i d i c u l e . There i s i n i t a f e e l i n g o f s u p e r i o r i t y , a k i n d o f m a l i c i o u s p l e a s u r e a t the p l i g h t o f ano the r w h i c h a r i s e s f rom our own Immuni ty . I t i s the l a u g h o f w h i c h M e r e d i t h s p e a k s , d e s c r i b i n g i t as " a b i g round s a t y r ' s l a u g h , t h a t f l u n g up the brows l i k e a f o r t r e s s l i f t e d by gunpowder ." I t i s n o t the humorous l a u g h , "showing s u n l i g h t o f 2 the m i n d , m e n t a l r i c h n e s s r a t h e r than n o i s y e n o r m i t y . " Not a l l the p i l g r i m s wou ld j o i n w i t h e q u a l h e a r t i n e s s i n the l a u g h t e r a t the expense o f the R e e v e . The M i l l e r , the Cook, the Shipman and the W i f e wou ld l a u g h u p r o a r i o u s l y ; but the more c u l t u r e d members of the p r o c e s s i o n , the K n i g h t , and the Monk, would r e f r a i n from h e a r t y l a u g h t e r . To them, the re would be some th ing u n d i g n i f i e d about the h e a r t y guffaws o f the " c h e r l s ; " and t h e i r l a u g h t e r w o u l d be tempered by a s l i g h t d i f f i d e n c e a t the thought o f r i d i c u l i n g one o f t h e i r own p a r t y . Chaucer c a t c h e s the atmosphere p e r f e c t l y when he s a y s ; D i v e r s e f o l k d i v e r s e l y they seyde , B u t f o r the moore p a r t t hey loughe and p l e y d e . 3 . 1. I (A) 3 8 5 9 - 3 8 6 8 . 2 . M e r e d i t h , G . , op . c i t . p . 8 2 e t s e q . 3 . I (A) 3 8 5 7 - 3 8 5 8 . That the Reeve f e e l s humiliated by the laughter about him i s shown by h i s r e l a t i a t i o n , the only way i n which he can compensate f o r being made to f e e l i n f e r i o r . There i s no doubt about the note of personal revenge: This dronke M i l l e r e hath y t o o l d us heer How that b i g y l e d was a carpenteer, Peraventure i n scorn, f o r I am oon And, by youre l e v e , I shal hym quite anoon; Right i n h i s cherles termes wol I speke. I pray to God h i s nekke mote to-breke; He kan wel i n myn eye seen a s t a l k e , But i n h i s owene he kan seen a balke. 1. He w i l l make the M i l l e r look f o o l i s h . He proceeds to do so by r e l a t i n g a t a l e which caps the M i l l e r ' s . Whereas the carpenter i s betrayed by one c l e r k , the m i l l e r i s deceived by two; he i s doubly fooled, both as to wife and daughter. "Thus," says the Reeve, Thus i s the proude m i l l e r e wel ybete, 2. l O , swich i t i s a m i l l e r e to be f a l s i And therfore t h i s proverbe i s seyd f u l sooth, "Hym thar nat ,wene wel that yvele dooth." 3. Thus have I quyt the M i l l e r e i n my t a l e . 4. fhus he has revenged himself upon the M i l l e r I And s u r e l y the proverb r e f e r s to h i s former remark to the M i l l e r when he pointed out to that stubborn sinner the f o l l y and e v i l of t a k i n g i l l of other people. 1. I (A) 3913-3920. 8. I (A) 4313. 3. I (A) 4318-4320. 4. I (A) 4324. 51 I t i s w e l l to n o t e t h a t Chaueer comments s p e c i a l l y on the C o o k ' s r e a c t i o n to the R e e v e ' s t a l e j The Cook o f Londoun , w h i l the Reve spak, F o r joye h im thoughe he c lawed h im on the hak . 1. I t t ook the robus t t a s t e o f the Cook to en joy two such t a l e s and to e n j o y them a t the expense o f two of the o t h e r P i l g r i m s . The Cook wants to take p a r t i n the fun and to add to the g e n e r a l debac l e by making the Host the v i c t i m o f a " l i t e l jape tha t f e l i n our c i t e e . " Two o t h e r f a b l i a u x , those o f the F r i a r and the Summoner, cause the same type of l a u g h t e r as do those o f the M i l l e r and the Reeve - the l a u g h t e r o f r i d i c u l e . The F r i a r and the Summoner b e g i n to q u a r r e l d u r i n g the W i f e o f B a t h ' s P r o l o g u e and c a n h a r d l y w a i t u n t i l the end of her t a l e f o r the o p p o r t u n i t y to a t t a c k each o t h e r . B o t h men a re b i t t e r l y a n g r y ; and b o t h t e l l t a l e s i n w h i c h the o t h e r and h i s t r i c k e r i e s a r e h e l d up as an o b j e c t o f m e r c i l e s s r i d i c u l e . There i s n o t enough detachment here to r a i s e the l a u g h t e r o f humour. The two men a r e too much a t the mercy o f t h e i r f e e l i n g s to be h u m o r i s t s ; and the l a u g h t e r they w i s h to e x c i t e has too much esteem f o r s e l f and contempt f o r o t h e r s to be a d m i t t e d as the l a u g h t e r o f humour. The S h l p m a n ' s t a l e r e l a t e s how a merchant was d o u b l y chea t ed by a monk, o f h i s w i f e ' s f a v o r s and o f h i s g o l d . There i s some thought tha t t h i s t a l e was w r i t t e n , no t f o r the Shipman, but f o r the W i f e . P r o f e s s o r T a t l o c k sugges t s t h a t , 1. (A) 4325-4326. by t h i s s t o r y o f the merchant duped, Chaucer meant to s t a r t a 1 q u a r r e l between the Merchant and the W i f e ; w h i l e P r o f e s s o r M a n l y , n o t i n g t h a t the M e r c h a n t ' s t a l e shows s i g n s o f b e i n g i n t e n d e d f o r a member o f a r e l i g i o u s o r d e r , adds the i d e a t h a t Chaucer may have meant the Monk t o r e t a l i a t e . These two s u g g e s t i o n s make f a i r l y c l e a r the purpose of the t a l e ; b u t , even i f we i g n o r e them, i t cannot be d e n i e d t h a t the i n t e r e s t i n the s t o r y h i n g e s on the t r i c k i n g o f the merchant by h i s w i f e and the monk, a d d i t i o n a l exc i t emen t b e i n g s u p p l i e d by the t r i c k i n g o f the w i f e by the monk. As i n the o t h e r f a b l i a u x -d i s c u s s e d , the fun l i e s i n the h u m i l i a t i o n o f a v i c t i m , i n the c o n t r a s t between h i s u n s u s p e c t i n g t r u s t and the p l o t a g a i n s t h i m ; and the joke i s g i v e n a d d i t i o n a l p o i n t by the c l o s e resemblance o f the v i c t i m to one o f the p i l g r i m s . I t must be c o n c l u d e d t h a t the l a u g h t e r o f the p i l g r i m s a t t h i s f a b l i a u as a t the o t h e r s w o u l d be the l a u g h t e r no t o f humour, bu t o f r i d i c u l e . The r e m a i n i n g f a b l i a u , t ha t t o l d by the M e r c h a n t , i s no t i n s p i r e d , as were f o u r o f those we have a l r e a d y c o n s i d e r e d , by mo t ive s o f r e v e n g e . The M e r c h a n t , a f t e r l i s t e n i n g to the W i f e o f B a t h ' s t a l e o f woman's s o v e r e i g n t y and the C l e r k ' s o f woman's h u m i l i t y , b reaks i n t o speech and , h a v i n g i n v e i g h e d a g a i n s t women, t e l l s a t a l e wh ich i s an 1. T a t l o c k , J . S . P . , The Development and Chrono logy o f  C h a u c e r ' s W r i t i n g s , Ghaucer S o c i e t y , 1907 . p . 2 0 5 e t s e q . 2 . M a n l y , J . M . , Some New L i g h t on Chauce r , Hew Y o r k , 1926 . p . 6 2 4 . 53 e l a b o r a t e d v e r s i o n o f the "Pear Tree E p i s o d e . " There a re many c o n t r a s t s to p r o v i d e m a t e r i a l f o r l a u g h t e r : J a n u a r y ' s age j o i n e d to M a y ' s y o u t h , h i s f e v e r i s h p a s s i o n and her c o o l • i n d i f f e r e n c e . Bu t the a t t i t u d e o f t h e Merchant to the peop le 'he p r o t r a y s i s a b i t t e r l y c y n i c a l one . He c a s t i g a t e s man 's f o l l y and' woman's f r a i l t y w i t h a l l the f u r y o f a man who has been h i m s e l f d e c e i v e d . I t i s h i s own f o l l y t h a t he s a t i r i z e s i n t h a t o f J a n u a r y . H i s a t t i t u d e i s one of complete and u t t e r contempt f o r h i m s e l f and J a n u a r y , and the l a u g h t e r the t a l e a rouses r e f l e c t s t h a t con tempt . Such l a u g h t e r has no t i n g e o f the humorous. I t i s the l a u g h t e r o f s a t i r e , the " s a t i r i c rod 1* t h a t makes i t s v i c t i m " w r i t h e and s h r i e k a l o u d , " even as the Merchant h i m s e l f w i n c e s o f h i s "owene s o o r e . " I f the t a l e he t e l l s does no t s t i r the l a u g h t e r of humour, n e i t h e r i s the Merchan t a l a u g h a b l e f i g u r e . There i s t r agedy i n h i s d i s i l l u s i o n -ment. The o n l y l a u g h t e r o f humour w h i c h appears i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h the Merchan t i s a roused by the i n c o n g r u i t y between h i s c y n i c i s m and the S q u i r e ' s i d e a l i s m , between h i s t a l e o f d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t and the S q u i r e ' s dream o f romance. What c o n c l u s i o n s a r e to be r e a c h e d c o n c e r n i n g humour i n the f a b l i a u x ? C o n t r a r y to g e n e r a l l y h e l d o p i n i o n , t h e r e i s no humour - as we have d e f i n e d i t - i n the s t o r i e s o f the f a b l i a u x . These s t o r i e s a r e u s u a l l y i n d e c e n t j okes p l a y e d upon a v i c t i m whose p r ed i camen t e x c i t e s l a u g h t e r i n the h e a r e r s o f the t a l e . I t i s l a u g h t e r a t the h u m i l i a t i o n o f a n o t h e r , and has i n i t too much o f the sense o f s u p e r i o r i t y to be a n y t h i n g 1. M e r e d i t h , Cr., o p . c i t . p .72. 54 . but the l a u g h t e r o f r i d i c u l e . I s t h e r e , t h e n , no humorous l a u g h t e r connec ted w i t h the f a b l i a u x ? One source has a l r e a d y been i n d i c a t e d i n the. i n c o n g r u i t y between the M e r c h a n t ' s f a b l i a u and the S q u i r e ' s romance. And s t i l l ano the r was d i s c u s s e d e a r l i e r i n t h i s essay i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h the c o n t r a s t between the c o n t r a s t i n g codes o f the K n i g h t and the M i l l e r . The K n i g h t and M i l l e r a re both E n g l i s h m e n on a p i l g r i m a g e to the same s h r i n e , y e t the re i s a d e l i c i o u s i n c o n g r u i t y i n t h e i r d i f f e r i n g a t t i t u d e s to l i f e . A t h i r d s o u r c e o f humorous l a u g h t e r becomes e v i d e n t as we s c r u t i n i z e C h a u c e r ' s a t t i t u d e to the f a b l i a u x . B e f o r e he b e g i n s the M i l l e r ' s t a l e , he warns us t h a t he i s g o i n g to repea t " the s t o r y , word f o r w o r d . I t i s a " c h e r l ' s " t a l e but t e l l i t he must, i f he i s n o t to f a l s i f y some o f h i s m a t t e r . However, s h o u l d the r eade r no t w i s h to r e a d t h i s improper t a l e , he may, now tha t he has been warned, t u r n over the pages and choose a n o t h e r s t o r y : And t h e r f o r e , whoso l i s t i t no t y h e e r e , Turne over the l e e f and chese ano the r t a l e ; F o r he s h a l fynde yowe, g r e t e and sma le , Of s t o r i a l t h i n g tha t t o u c h e t h g e n t i l l e s s e , And eek m o r a l i t e e and h o o l y n e s s e . 1. I f he chooses w r o n g l y , he i s no t to blame Chauce r : B l a m e t h n a t me i f t h a t ye chese amys* 2 . How observe the p red icament o f the r e a d e r . S h o u l d he i g n o r e C h a u c e r ' s c h a l l e n g e and s k i p the t a l e , he becomes, i n h i s f a l s e d e l i c a c y , i n h i s p r i g g i s h n e s s , i n h i s b l i n d n e s s to an 1 . I (A) 3176-3180 . 2 . i m p o r t a n t though c rude s i d e o f man's - and h i s own - n a t u r e , a s u b j e c t f o r humorous l a u g h t e r . And Chaucer s m i l e s g e n t l y a t h i m . S h o u l d he t ake up the c h a l l e n g e , r e a d the t a l e and be so shocked the reby t h a t he r e f r a i n s from l a u g h i n g and t u r n s away i n d i s g u s t , he i s a g a i n a s u b j e c t f o r humorous l a u g h t e r . I n the f i r s t p l a c e , he was warned n o t to r e a d the t a l e ; i n the s e c o n d , h i s u n w i l l i n g n e s s to admit the c o a r s e n e s s to be found i n human n a t u r e becomes, i n the f ace of t h e u n d e n i a b l e e x i s t e n c e o f t h a t c o a r s e n e s s , i n c o n g r u o u s . A g a i n Chaucer s m i l e s a t h i m . And f o r such a r e a d e r , t h e r e i s no humour i n the f a b l i a u x . B u t s h o u l d he take up the c h a l l e n g e , r e a d the t a l e , and , f r e e i n g h i m s e l f from h i s p u r i t a n i c s c r u p l e s , i n d u l g e i n a h e a r t y l a u g h at the expense of the M i l l e r , the Reeve o r the F r i a r , t he re comes to h i m , even as t h a t l o u d l a u g h t e r o f r i d i c u l e d i e s away, ano the r k i n d o f l a u g h t e r , the l a u g h t e r o f humour. I t i s a l a u g h t e r w h i c h c a n s p r i n g o n l y from an accep t ance of a l l the i ncongruous elements i n human n a t u r e . These f a b l i a u x , i n d e c e n t as many o f them a r e , r e v e a l an a spec t o f man w h i c h the p r o c e s s o f c i v i l i z a t i o n has brought under c o n t r o l but w h i c h s t i l l e x i s t s and a t t imes seeks an o u t l e t . The l a u g h t e r they e x c i t e , i s ; the l a u g h t e r o f b a r b a r i a n s and c h i l d r e n , spon taneous , h e a r t y and m e r c i l e s s . We can a l l be b a r b a r i a n s and c h i l d r e n ; to r e f u s e to admit i t i s to make o u r s e l v e s r i d i c u l o u s . And we a re the b e t t e r f o r f i n d i n g an o u t l e t i n 1 l a u g h t e r a t the f a b l i a u x . The paradox i s tha t b e f o r e the 1 . Cazamian , L . The Development o f E n g l i s h Humour, New Y o r k , The M a o M i l l a n Company, 1930. p . 1 1 3 . "There i s t he r e l e a s e o f mind from the s e r i o u s n e s s o f l i f e , the j o y o f i r r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and p r i m i t i v e n e s s , the s a l u t a r y sense of the r e b e l l i o n and S a t u r -n a l i a o f c h a r a c t e r , the o c c a s i o n a l f i t o f drunkeness which a n c i e n t s r e g a r d e d as p a r t o f the hyg iene of a sane man." l a u g h t e r o f humour emerges we must f i r s t e x p e r i e n c e the l a u g h t e r o f r i d i c u l e tha t admi t s our k i n s h i p w i t h the Reeve and the M i l l e r . Our accep tance o f t h i s k i n s h i p bo th makes us aware o f the i ncongruous e lements i n man and human l i f e and i m p a r t s to the l a u g h t e r r a i s e d by tha t sense of the i ncongruous a t e n d e r n e s s , a lmos t a p i t y , w h i c h makes i t humorous. C h a u c e r ' s humour i s to be c o n s i d e r e d n e x t w i t h r e l a t i o n to the Rime o f S i r Thopas and the N u n ' s P r i e s t Is g a l e . I n b o t h , a p a r t from the i n c i d e n t a l humour a r i s i n g from the t a l e s i n r e l a t i o n to t h e i r t e l l e r s , t h e r e i s a new k i n d o f humour w h i c h a rouses the p u r e s t k i n d o f humorous l a u g h t e r . I n the m a t e r i a l d i s c u s s e d so f a r , Chaucer has been found to obse rve the i n c o n g r u i t i e s i n man and l i f e and to e x h i b i t those i n c o n g r u i t i e s h e i g h t e n e d and emphas ized; h i s l o v e o f men and h i s accep tance o f t h e i r p e r v e r s i t i e s , h i s d e l i g h t i n l i f e and h i s accep tance o f i t s c o n t r a d i c t i o n s , enable h im to make ou r l a u g h t e r humorous . I n the Rime o f S i r Thopas and the N u n ' s  P r i e s t ' s T a l e , however , he t u r n s h i s a t t e n t i o n to two l i t e r a r y fo rms : the m e t r i c a l romance a n d ' t h e b e a s t - e p i c . N o t i n g the i n h e r e n t weaknesses o f the m e t r i c a l romance, he was i n s p i r e d to w r i t e a p a r o d y . To do s o , he d e l i b e r a t e l y c r e a t e s i n c o n g r u i t -i e s . I n t e r e s t e d by the b e a s t - e p i c , he c o n c e i v e d the i d e a o f r e l a t i n g a f a rmyard i n c i d e n t as i f i t were a h e r o i c t a l e . I n the t a l e , he c o n s t a n t l y ke.eps be fo re us the c o n t r a s t between " the b a r n y a r d and the b o w e r . " He t a k e s , t hen , two l i t e r a r y forms and by c r e a t i n g i n c o n g r u i t i e s i n h i s use o f them, he e x c i t e s a l a u g h t e r w h i c h , because i t i s no l o n g e r r a i s e d by the a b s u r d i t i e s o f our f e l l o w - m e n , i s c o m p l e t e l y f r e e from any f e e l i n g o f s u p e r i o r i t y . I n the o t h e r m a t e r i a l , o n l y C h a u c e r ' s e s s e n t i a l k i n d l i n e s s o f n a t u r e kep t h i s f u n from b e i n g s a t i r i c . But h e r e , the s o l e s t i m u l u s i s p e r c e p t i o n o f i n c o n g r u i t y . He re , no human b e i n g i s p i l l o r i e d ; the v i c t i m i s n o t a pe r son but a l i t e r a r y f o r m . The escape f rom the p e r s o n a l p o i n t o f v i ew i s comple te and our p l e a s u r e i s p u r e l y an i n t e l l e c t u a l one, a t the o t h e r extreme from the l a u g h t e r o f pu re ego i sm. But i f humorous l a u g h t e r g a i n s i n p u r i t y by b e i n g f r e e d from the p e r s o n a l a s p e c t , i t a l s o l o s e s i n d e p t h . I t l o s e s those e lements t h a t can make humorous l a u g h t e r have t e a r s i n i t ; i t l o s e s the p o i g n a n c y of the P r i o r e s s ' s p o r t r a i t and the t r a g i c l i g h t s o f the M e r c h a n t ' s ; i t l o s e s the sense of the t r a g i c i n the comic w h i c h s o f t e n s humorous l a u g h t e r and makes i t s p r i n g from bo th mind and h e a r t . B e f o r e d e a l i n g w i t h the humour a r i s i n g f rom C h a u c e r ' s pa rody of the m e t r i c a l romance, l e t us n o t e the humour i n the d e l i b e r a t e c o n t r a s t between Chaucer the poet and Chaucer the p i l g r i m , between the C a n t e r b u r y T a l e s , h i s c r e a t i o n as a p o e t , and the Rime o f S i r Thopas , h i s t a l e as a p i l g r i m . Chaucer the p i l g r i m i s seen t h rough the eyes o f the Hos t Thou l o o k e s t as thou w o l d e s t fynde an h a r e , F o r evere upon the ground I se thee s t a r e . . 1. He semeth e l y y s s h b y h i s contenaunoe, F o r un to no wigh t doo th he d a l i a u n c e . ' S. 1 . V I I 696-697 . S . V I I 703-704 . ms. He i s shy , d i f f i d e n t and a b s t r a c t e d , r i d i n g w i t h downcast eyes and t a k i n g l i t t l e p a r t i n the c o n v e r s a t i o n of the P i l g r i When the Hos t a sks h im f o r a t a l e of m i r t h , Chaucer the p i l g r i m p r e p a r e s to t e l l a t a l e but f i r s t a p o l o g i z e s f o r h i s l a c k o f i n v e n t i o n : " H o o s t e , " quod I , "ne b e t h na t y v e l e apayd , F o r oo the r t a l e c e r t e s kan I noon , Bu t o f a rym I l e r n e d l o n g e a g o o n . " 1. He knows o n l y one t a l e and t h a t a r i m e he l e a r n e d a l o n g t ime ago . Encouraged by the H o s t , he overcomes h i s d i f f i d e n c e and p l u n g e s i n t o the Rime o f S i r Thopas . The Host and the P i l g r i m s l i s t e n i n g r o w i n g dismay to the absu rd t a l e w h i l e Chaucer jogs h a p p i l y th rough the f i r s t " f i t " and h e g i n s w i t h r e l i s h the s e c o n d . A t l a s t the Host d e c l a r e s he can s t and no more of i t a n d commands Chaucer i n most peremptory f a s h i o n to s top such d o g g e r e l : "Namoore o f t h i s , f o r Goddes d i g n i t e e , " Quod oure H o o s t e , " f o r thou makest me So wery o f t h y v e r r a y lewednesse T h a t , a l s o w i s l y God my s o u l e b l e s s e , Myne e res aken o f t hy d r a s t y speche . How s w i c h a rym the d e v e l I b i t e c h e ! " 2 . C h a u c e r , the d i f f i d e n t p i l g r i m , i s so s h o r t o f w i t tha t he does no t p e r c e i v e what i s wrong w i t h h i s t a l e and a sks w i t h an i n j u r e d a i r why he i s n o t to be a l l o w e d to f i n i s h . "Why s o ? " Quod I , "why w i l t o w l e t t e me -Moore o f my t a l e than another man, Syn tha t i t i s the bes te rym I k a n ? " 3 . 1 . VII 707-709 . 2 . V I I 919-924 . 3 . V I I 926 -928 . The Hos t g i v e s h i m an u n v a r n i s h e d answer; "By G o d , " quod he , " f o r p l e y n l y , a t a w o r d , Thy d r a s t y r y m i n g i s n a t w o r t h a t o o r d ! Thou doos t noght e l l e s but despendest tyme." 1. Now Chaueer the poet was a n y t h i n g but shy . When he i s s p e a k i n g i n h i s own p e r s o n to us i n the P r o l o g u e , he t e l l s us t h a t be fo re n i g h t f a l l he has become a c q u a i n t e d w i t h a l l n i n e and twenty P i l g r i m s . M o r e o v e r , h i s p u b l i c l i f e was such as p r e c l u d e d s h y n e s s . And as f o r h i s l a c k o f i n v e n t i o n , h i s c r e a t i v e powers a r e e v i d e n t i n the P i l g r i m s and t h e i r T a l e s , to say n o t h i n g of h i s o t h e r w o r k s . Such was C h a u c e r ' s temperament, however , tha t he en joyed and d e p i c t s f o r our p l e a s u r e the c o n t r a s t between what he a c t u a l l y was and what the P i l g r i m s thought h im to be. And he c a r r i e s the joke to i t s f a r t h e s t l i m i t . Not con ten t w i t h r e c i t i n g i n d o g g e r e l the o n l y t a l e he knows, he p r e t ends to be i g n o r a n t o f the cause o f the H o s t ' s i n t e r r u p t i o n , and to be so s t u p i d t h a t he does no t p e r c e i v e the a b s u r d i t y o f the Rime o f S i r Thopas . H i s a f f e c t e d ob tuseness sharpens our sense o f t h e i n c o n g r u i t y between the Chaucer the poet and Chaucer the p i l g r i m . I n theoRlme o f S i r Thopas , Chaucer h a l f - p a r o d i e s , h a l f - b u r l e s q u e s the m e t r i c a l romances w h i c h were so p o p u l a r a form i n h i s day . The t a l e has been c a l l e d a l i t e r a r y s a t i r e . The word i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h t h i s work i s a misnomer. I t sugges t s t h a t Chaucer was r i d i c u l i n g the m e t r i c a l romances and t h a t he hoped by h i s r i d i c u l e to e f f e c t a change. N o t h i n g was f a r t h e r f rom h i s a t t i t u d e or p u r p o s e . He l i k e d these romances; he en joyed 1 . V I I 926 -928 . t h e i r w i l d t a l e s o f a d v e n t u r e , t h e i r n a i v e t e and t h e i r l e i s u r e l y p r o g r e s s j u s t as much as h i s con t empora r i e s d i d , but he r e c o g n i z e d t h e i r f a u l t s . The i d e a o c c u r r e d to h im o f making f u n o f the romances by w r i t i n g an i m i t a t i o n i n w h i c h t h e i r weaknesses would be h e i g h t e n e d and e x a g g e r a t e d . H i s o n l y purpose was to amuse h i m s e l f and h i s r e a d e r s by l a u g h i n g a t the f a u l t s i n s t y l e , c o n s t r u c t i o n and c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n w h i c h were r i f e i n the romances . The modern r e a d e r i s s e r i o u s l y hand icapped i n h i s a p p r e c i a t i o n o f the humour o f the Rime o f S i r Thopas. He i s n o t , as were the P i l g r i m s , f a m i l i a r w i t h the m e t r i c a l romance and a c q u a i n t e d w i t h a l l i t s p e c u l i a r i t i e s o f s t y l e and c o n s t r u c t i o n . M o r e o v e r , he i s no l o n g e r l i v i n g i n a w o r l d where the f e u d a l sys tem f u n c t i o n s and where k n i g h t s as p a r t o f the s o c i a l o r d e r a re t aken f o r g r a n t e d . He f a i l s to get the s u b t l e t y o f C h a u c e r ' s humour i n t h i s poem because he f i n d s d i f f i c u l t y i n t h i n k i n g on the r e q u i r e d number of- p l a n e s . When Chaucer p a r o d i e d the f a u l t s o f s t y l e and c o n s t r u c t i o n o f the m e t r i c a l romance, he had a c l e a r i d e a o f the m e t r i c a l romance t y p e ; and when he b u r l e s q u e d the h e r o , he had a c l e a r i d e a no t o n l y o f the m e t r i c a l romance hero but a l s o o f t h e k n i g h t o f h i s t i m e , whose courage and d i g n i t y a r e r e f l e c t e d i n the p o r t r a i t o f the K n i g h t . We can p e r c e i v e the i n c o n g r u i t i e c r e a t e d i n the-Rime o f S i r Thopas o n l y i f we have a f a m i l i a r i t y w i t h m e t r i c a l romances and m e d i a e v a l l i f e s u f f i c i e n t to a l l o w us to t h i n k on two or t h r e e p l a n e s at once . 61 The most complex s e r i e s of i n c o n g r u i t i e s i s furnished by the c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n i n the Rime of S i r Thopas and i s e a s i l y observable by a comparison of the knight of mediaeval c h i v a l r y , the knight of m e t r i c a l romance and S i r Thopas. Fortunately, Chaucer has given us i n the Knight a d e s c r i p t i o n of a "verray, p a r f i t g e n t i l knyght," That f r o the tyme he f i r s t bigan To r i d e n out, he loved c h i v a l r l e , Trouthe and honour, fredom and c u r t e i s i e . 1. He was brave, had many b a t t l e s to h i s c r e d i t , and had fought both f o r h i s l o r d and h i s r e l i g i o n . On the other hand, the knight of the t y p i c a l m e t r i c a l romance i s r e c k l e s s l y brave and e x c e p t i o n a l l y f i e r c e and he k i l l s an impossible number of g i a n t s . No danger i s too great f o r him and h i s f i e r c e n e s s awes every opponent. So f i e r c e and powerful i s Guy o f Warwick's father that In a l l England ne was ther none That durste i n wrath ayeenst hym goon. 2. And so brave i s S i r , P e r c e v a l that he rushes to f i g h t without any armour on; Up ryses syr Arthoure, Went to a chamboure To feehe -doune armoure •o, . . . . . j j g ^. 0]iiiae>i ' n-to-.dyghte; Bot are i t was downe caste, Ere was P e r c y v e l l e paste, And on h i s way folowed fas t e That he solde with fyghte. 3. 1. I (A) 74-77. 2. Guy o f Warwick, ed. Zupita, J . , London: Published f o r the E a r l y E n g l i s h Text Society by M. Trubner & Co., 1883. E x t r a S e r i e s 4E, 49, 11. 45-46. 3. S i r Perceval ed. H.O. H a l l i w e l l , Thornton Romances, London: P r i n t e d f o r the Camden Society by John B. Nichols & Son, London, 1844. 11. 649-656. But S i r Thopas? He i s so a w e - i n s p i r i n g tha t Chaueer says o f h i m : F o r i n t h a t c o n t r e e was t h e r noon , That to h im d u r s t e r i d e or goon N e i t h e r wyf ne e h i l d e . i , He i s so f i e r c e t h a t women and c h i l d r e n da re n o t approach h i m l And , u n l i k e S i r P e r c e v a l , he p r e f e r s to f i g h t h i s g i a n t ano the r day: The c h i l d e seyde " A l s o moote I t h e e , Tomorwe w o l I meete w i t h thee , Whan I have myn a rmoure ; " 2 . Where the m e d i a e v a l k n i g h t wou ld have been b rave and the K n i g h t o f m e t r i c a l romance r e c k l e s s , S i r Thopas i s d i s c r e e t and c a u t i o u s ! C h a u c e r ' s K n i g h t bo re h i m s e l f m o d e s t l y and was' c a r e f u l o f h i s speech : And o f h i s p o r t as meeke as i s a mayde. He neve re y e t no v i l e y n y e ne sayde I n a l h i s l y f unto no maner w i g h t . 3. The k n i g h t o f m e t r i c a l romance swaggered and swore e x c e s s i v e l y : " I n dedes o f armes, be God on lyve.S Ye a r e eountyd wor the odur f y v e , God a mercy, s y r ! " seyde hee . 4 . Chaucer p a r o d i e s these oa ths by making S i r Thopas swear i n a v e r y u n i m a g i n a t i v e and b o u r g e o i s f a sh ions And the re he swoor on a l e and b r e e d How tha t the geaunt s h a l be deed , B i t y d e what b i t y d e . 5 . 1. V I I 804 -806 . 2 . V I I 817-819 . 3 . I (A) 6 9 - 7 1 . 4 . S i r Bg lamour , Tho rn ton Romances. I I . 9 4 - 9 6 . 5 . V I I 872 -874 . M o r e o v e r , i n appearance , C h a u c e r ' s K n i g h t shows the e f f e c t o f h i s h a r d w o r k : H i s h o r s were goode but he was na t gay, Of f u s t i a n he wered a gypon A l b i s m o t e r e d w i t h h i s habergeon , F o r he was l a t e ycome f rom h i s v i a g e . 1 . B u t the k n i g h t o f the m e t r i c a l romance i s a lways m a g n i f i c e n t l y d r e s s e d and armed: A g y p e l l as w h i t e as m i l k , I n t ha t semely s a l e ; And syght an h a u l b e r k b r y g h t , That r y c h e l y was adygh t , W i t h n a y l e s thykke and sma le . 2 . S i r T h o p a s ' s r a imen t a l s o has an unsmi rched appearance , d i f f i c u l t to p r e s e r v e i n the a c t u a l s t r e s s o f f i g h t i n g : And over t h a t h i s co t e - a rmour As w h i t as i s a l i l y e f l o u r , I n w h i c h he w o l d e b a t e . 3 . I t wou ld be p o s s i b l e to go on q u o t i n g p a r a l l e l s a l l o f w h i c h would show, l i k e those a l r e a d y g i v e n , how Chaucer f i n d s cause f o r l a u g h t e r a t the k n i g h t s o f the m e t r i c a l romances . Compared w i t h r e a l k n i g h t s , they a r e f o o l h a r d y i n b a t t l e , bombas t ic i n speech and o v e r - m a g n i f i c e n t i n a t t i r e . Chaucer b u r l e s q u e s them by d e s c r i b i n g S i r Thopas , the i n c o n g r u i t i e s o f whose c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n can o n l y be p e r c e i v e d a g a i n s t a background o f the m e t r i c a l romances and o f m e d i e v a l l i f e . 1 . I (A) 7 4 - 7 7 . 2. Lybaeus 331 so onus, A n c i e n t E n g l i s h M e t r i c a l Romances, e d . R i t s o n , J . P u b l i s h e d by E . & G . G o l d s m l d , E d i n b u r g h , 1885 . . V o l . I I , 1 1 . 2 2 3 - 2 2 7 , 3 r . V I I 866 -868 . The whole d e s c r i p t i o n o f the d re s s and a rming o f S i r Thopas p r e s e n t s a d i f f i c u l t p r o b l e m . P r o f e s s o r M a n l y a rgues t h a t i t i s f u l l o f a b s u r d i t i e s i n t e n d e d as a b u r l e s q u e , but h i s case i s by no means c l e a r . Compare R o b i n s o n , F.EF. C h a u c e r ' s Complete Works , p . 8 4 5 . 64 Not o n l y i n the d e l i n e a t i o n o f the heroes of m e t r i c a l romances a r e amusing f a u l t s t o be found but a l s o i n the s t r u c t u r e and s t y l e o f these poems. The s t o r i e s t o l d a r e f u l l o f d i g r e s s i o n s and u n m o t i v a t e d e v e n t s . Time and a g a i n the ' a c t i o n i s l e f t suspended w h i l e the poet wanders o n , g i v i n g us l o n g , i t e m i z e d l i s t s o f t r e e s and b i r d s , or o f a k n i g h t ' s a c c o u t r e m e n t s ; o r i s i n t e r r u p t e d by a t o t a l l y unexpec ted happen ing o r c o i n c i d e n c e . An example o f each w i l l be s u f f i c i e n t f o r our p u r p o s e . Such d i g r e s s i o n s as the f o l l o w i n g from the Squyr o f Lowe Degre were common: On e v e r y braunehe s a t byrdes t h r e . Syngynge w i t h g rea t melody, The r u d d o c k , the woodwale , The pee , and the p o p i n j a y e , The t h r u s t e l e sange b o t h nyght and daye , The m a r l y n and the wrenne a l s o , The swalowe whippynge to and f r o . - 1. Ghaucer , tongue i n cheek , pauses on the ve rge o f t e l l i n g us about the d r e a d f u l m i s f o r t u n e w h i c h b e f e l l S i r Thopas to r e c i t e a l i s t o f b i r d s : The b r i d d e s synge , i t i s no n a y , The sparhauk and the p a p e j a y , That j o y i t was t o h e e r e ; The t h r u s t e l o o k made eek h i s l a y , The wodedowve upon the s p r a y She sang f u l l oude and d e e r e . 2 . And two o f these b i r d s - the sparrow hawk and the p o p i n j a y - do n o t s i n g ! S i r T h o p a s ' s sudden f a l l i n g i n l o v e i s a good i n s t a n c e o f an unexpec t ed h a p p e n i n g . N o t h i n g has been s a i d to p r epa re us f o r such an e v e n t u a l i t y . On the c o n t r a r y , we have been t o l d 1 . The Squyr o f Lowe D e g r e , R i t s o n , J . , o p . c i t . V o l . I I J , 1 1 . 4 3 - 5 0 2 . V I I 7 6 6 - 7 7 1 . t h a t maids ,might cease to t h i n k l o n g i n g l y o f h i m , f o r , though he was " f a i r and gent i n b a t a i l l e and i n tourneyment" y e t "he was c h a s t and no l e c h o u r . " Imagine our s u r p r i s e , t h e n , when S i r Thopas beg ins to w a i l ; "0 s e i n t e M a r i e , b e n e d i c i t e ! What e y l e t h t h i s l o v e at me To bynde me so s o o r e ? " 1 . And he has f a l l e n i n l o v e w i t h a woman he has neve r s e e n . 2 Ipomydon, i t i s t r u e , f e l l i n l o v e w i t h a woman whom he had n o t seen but whose beauty he had h e a r d p r a i s e d . Chaucer c a r r i e s the comedy a s t ep f a r t h e r ; S i r Thopas has o n l y dreamt o f h i s l a d y ; he does no t even know tha t she e x i s t s . I n the s t y l e o f the m e t r i c a l romances the most g l a r i n g f a u l t was the i n d i s c r i m i n a t e use o f s t o c k metaphors . These s t o c k metaphors had accumula ted owing p a r t l y to t h e i r use by mediocre p o e t s and p a r t l y to the e x i g e n c i e s o f an e l a b o r a t e s t a n z a - f o r m . F o r example , a : f a v o r i t e metaphor to use i n d e s c r i b i n g the c o m p l e x i o n was " l y l y e f l o u r . " The Ges te o f K y n g Horn has the l i n e s ; So w h i t as eny l y l y e f l o u r , So r o s e - r e d wes h i s c o l o u r . 3 . Chaucer makes t h i s type of metaphor r i d i c u l o u s by d e s c r i b i n g S i r Thopas t h u s : Whi t was h i s f ace as pandemayn^, H i s l i p p e d rede as r o s e ; 4 . 1 . V I I 784-786 . _ . , 8 * The L i f e o f Ipomydon. Weber, H . , M e t r i c a l Romances: P r i n t e d by George Ramsay and C o . f o r A r c h i b a l d C o n s t a b l e and C o . E d i n b u r g h , 1810 . V o l . 1 1 , 1 1 . 141 -147 . 3 . The Geste of Kyng H o r n . R i t s o n , J . , o p . c i t . V o l . I l l , 1 1 . 4 7 2 - 5 . 4 . V I I 725-726 . He has s u b s t i t u t e d f o r " l y l y e f l o u r , " "pandemayn" wh ich means w h i t e b r e a d . The uncompromis ing b o u r g e o i s i e o f w h i t e bread i s i n amusing c o n t r a s t to the m i n c i n g a r i s t o c r a c y o f l i l y f l o u From the f o r e g o i n g d i s c u s s i o n , i t w i l l be seen t h a t C h a u c e r ' s pa rody o f the m e t r i c a l romances g a i n s i n p o i n t when we compare i t w i t h passages from those romances . To a p p r e c i a t h i s humour, as he h e i g h t e n s and exaggera t e s the f a u l t s o f the romances , we must have a knowledge no t o n l y o f the m e t r i c a l romances but a l s o o f C h a u c e r ' s a t t i t u d e to them. I t i s l i k e s e e i n g on the s tage a woman whose, p e r s i s t e n t g a r r u l i t y i s an exagge ra t ed echo of a f r i e n d ' s t a l k a t i v e n e s s . One l aughs a t the woman w i t h o u t l o v i n g the f r i e n d the l e s s , o r w i s h i n g to r e f o r m h e r . We r e a d S i r Thopas, and, p e r c e i v i n g from i t s a b s u r d i t y , the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c f a u l t s o f the m e t r i c a l romance, we l a u g h a t the pa rody w i t h o u t l i k i n g the m e t r i c a l romance the l e s s . And what o f the P i l g r i m s ? D i d they f i n d C h a u c e r ' s Rime o f S i r Thopas humorous? I t i s v e r y u n l i k e l y . On ly the G l e r k wou ld have the s u b t l e t y to p e r c e i v e what Ghaucer was d o i n g . He must have l o o k e d v e r y s p e c u l a t i v e l y , i n d e e d , a t the s e e m i n g l y shy and s t u p i d p i l g r i m , who t o l d a romance so a t r o c i o u s t h a t i t s f a u l t s must have been p r e m e d i t a t e d . The o t h e r P i l g r i m s w o u l d be m e r e l y b o r e d . F o r them, as f o r the H o s t , i t was " d r a s t y r y m i n g . " The humour i n the t a l e i s f o r the r e a d i n g aud ience who f i n d l a u g h t e r i n compar ing the Rime o f S i r Thopas w i t h the m e t r i c a l romance and Chaucer the poet w i t h Chaucer the P i l g r i m . The v e r y u n c o n s c i o u s n e s s o f the P i l g r i m s as to the t r i c k p l a y e d on them h e i g h t e n s the humour o f the s i t u a t i o n . The H u n ' s P r i e s t ? s Ta l e i s an even more i n t e r e s t i n g i l l u s t r a t i o n of C h a u c e r ' s humour at work than i s the Rime o f  S i r Thopas . I n the m e t r i c a l romances, the i n c o n g r u i t y between the he roes and t h e i r p r o t o t y p e s a l r e a d y e x i s t e d . Chaucer m e r e l y drew a t t e n t i o n to t h i s i n c o n g r u i t y by p a r o d y i n g the m e t r i c a l romance. I n the F a n ' s P r i e s t ' s T a l e , however , he t akes a w e l l - k n o w n s t o r y w h i c h had i n i t as a t a l e and l i t e r a r y form n o t h i n g o f the i n c o n g r u o u s . I t i s the f a m i l i a r t a l e o f the cock who was s e i z e d by a f o x and made h i s escape by i n d u c i n g h i s c a p t o r to open h i s mouth i n speech , flhe s t o r y i s to be found bo th i n f a b l e s and i n an i n c i d e n t o f the b e a s t - e p i c known as the romance o f R e n a r d . T h i s s i m p l e s t o r y s u p p l i e d the m a t e r i a l from w h i c h Chaucer d e v e l o p e d the H u n ' s P r i e s t ' s T a l e , a m a s t e r p i e c e o f humour. He se t to work to c r e a t e i n the t a l e i n c o n g r u i t i e s w h i c h a rouse l a u g h t e r but w h i c h a re so d e l i c a t e l y b a l a n c e d one a g a i n s t the o the r t ha t they neve r o f f end the r e a d e r ' sense o f the f i t t i n g . I n the f i r s t p l a c e , the c o c k ' s adven ture i s p r e s e n t e d a g a i n s t a background o f u n i v e r s a l h i s t o r y and d i v i n e p r o v i d e n c e . A l l the omens t h a t come to the g r e a t b e f o r e d i s a s t e r come to the c o c k . He i s warned by a dream o f a p p r o a c h i n g m i s f o r t u n e and o f an i m p l a c a b l e enemy: 'j "How G o d , " quod he , "my swevene r ecche a r i g h t , And kepe-my body out o f f o u l p r i s o u n l Me mette how tha t I romed up and doun W i t h i n n e our y e e r d , wheer as I saugh a bees t 68 Was l y k an hound, and wolde nan maad a r e e s t Upon my body, and wolde han had me d e e d . " 1. When h i s w i f e a s c r i b e s h i s dream to i n t e r n a l d i s o r d e r s , he quotes the examples o f C i p i o u n , D a n i e l , Joseph , P h a r a o , C r e s u s , Andromache, g r ea t peop le of the pa s t to whom dreams were sen t as w a r n i n g s o f d i s a s t e r . Bu t he c a s t s a s i d e h i s f e a r s , and, l i k e many i l l u s t r i o u s he roes be fo re h i m , goes to h i s doom f u l l o f the p r i d e t h a t i s to b r i n g about h i s f a l l : " I am so f u l o f joye and of s o l a s That I d i f f y e both© sweven and dreem?" 2 . R e a l he was, he was namoore a f e r d . 3 . One day C h a u n t e e l e e r , " i n a l h i s p r y d e , " i s s t r u t t i n g w i t h h i s seven w i v e s i n h i s wide domain when s o d e y n l y hym f i l a s o r w e f u l c a s , F o r evere the l a t t e r ende of j o y i s wo. God woot t h a t w o r d l y joye i s soone ago. 4 . The o a t a s t r o p h e thus p r e p a r e d f o r i s r e l a t e d i n the g rand s t y l e . D e s t i n y i s a d d r e s s e d : 0 ' d e s t i n e s , t h a t mayst no t been eschewed! A l i a s , t ha t C h a u n t e e l e e r f l e i g h f r o the bemesl A l i a s , h i s wyf ne rogh t e na t o f dremes! 5 . Venus i s r e p r o a c h e d f o r d e s e r t i n g her f a i t h f u l w o r s h i p p e r : 0 Venus , t ha t a r t goddesse o f p l e s a u n c e , Syn tha t thy s e r v a n t was t h i s C h a u n t e e l e e r , And i n t hy s e r v y c e d i d e a l h i s poweer, 1. V l l 2896-2901 . 2 . V l l 3170-3171 . 3. V l l 3177 . 4 . V l l 3204-3206. 5 . V l l 3338-3340 . 69 Moore f o r d e l i t than w o r l d to m u l t i p l y e , Why woldes tow s u f f r e hym on t h y day to dye? 1 . The l a m e n t a t i o n o f the women i s d e s c r i b e d a t l e n g t h : C e r t e s , s w i c h c r y ne l a m e n t a c i o n Was neve re o f l a d y e s maad whan Y l i o n Was wonne, and P i r r u s w i t h h i s s t r e i t e swerd , Whan he hadde hent kyng P r i a m by the b e r d , And s l a y e n hym, as s e i t h us Eneydos , As maden a l l e the hennes i n t h e e l o s , Whan they had seyn o f C h a u n t e c l e e r the s i g h t e . 2 . The c o n t r a s t between the a c t u a l i n c i d e n t and i t s method o f p r e s e n t a t i o n , a fa rmyard c a t a s t r o p h e p a i n t e d on a w o r l d - w i d e canvas , i s e x q u i s i t e l y humorous. And j u s t as the f a l l o f a • g r ea t hero - o f a H e c t o r o r an A c h i l l e s - causes a tremendous r e v e r b e r a t i o n i n h i s kingdom and g r ea t p r e p a r a t i o n s to avenge h i s c a p t u r e , so i t i s w i t h C h a u n t e c l e e r : Ran C o l l e oure dogge, and T a l b o t , and G e r l a n d , And M a l k y n , w i t h a d y s t a f i n h i r hand; Ran cow and c a l f , and eek the v e r r a y hogges , So f e r e d f o r t h e be rkyng o f the dogges And shou tyng o f the men and wommen eeke , They ronne so hem thoughte h i r h e r t e b r e e k e . They y o l l e d e n as feendes doon i n h e l l e The dokes c r y d e n as men wolde hem q u e l l e ; The gees f o r f e e r e f l owen ove r the t r e e s ; 3 . I t seraed as t h a t hevene s h o l d e f a l l e . 4 . The g a t h e r i n g c lamour mounts u n t i l the v e r y heavens a re shaken w i t h the magnitude o f the c a t a s t r o p h e - the c a p t u r e o f a c o c k . T h i s d e v i c e o f c r e a t i n g a c o n t r a s t i s extended w i t h g r e a t s u b t l e t y to the c h a r a c t e r s o f C h a u n t e c l e e r and P e r t e l o t e . The fa rmyard i n c i d e n t assumes the p r o p o r t i o n s o f a w o r l d t r a g e d y ; the. c o c k and the hen have the thoughts and f e e l i n g s o f a k n i g h t 1 . ¥ 1 1 3348-3346 . 2 . ¥ 1 1 3355-3361 . 3 . ¥ 1 1 3383-3390 . 4 . ¥ 1 1 3 4 0 1 . and h i s l a d y . The b l e n d i n g of coolc and k n i g h t , hen and l a d y , i s e x q u i s i t e l y done. Never a r e we q u i t e a l l o w e d to l o s e our sense o f the b i r d i n the man, o f t h e man i n the b i r d . J u s t as we are about to do s o , a word awakens us to the c o n t r a s t between the two. The method o f t rea tment i s a p e r f e c t example o f humour: we are made to t h i n k c o n s t a n t l y on two p l a n e s - the a n i m a l and the human. To keep a d e l i c a t e b a l a n c e between the two, to c r e a t e the atmosphere o f c h i v a l r y i n the b a r n y a r d , i s the work o f a mas te r , one whose mind d e l i g h t e d i n j u s t such c o m p l e x i t i e s . I n our f i r s t s i g h t of C h a u n t e e l e e r , we can p e r c e i v e the k n i g h t i n the b i r d : H i s comb was r e d d e r than the f y n c o r a l , And b a t a i l l e d as I t were a c a s t e l w a l l ; H i s b y l e was b l a k , and as the j e e t i t shoon; l y k a su re were h i s l egges and h i s t oon ; H i s n a y l e s w h i t t e r than the l y l y e f l o u r , 1. And l y k the burned g o l d was h i s c o l o u r . S. • a • • « • « « • a 0 H i s voys m u r i e r t h a n the mur ie o rgon On messe-dayes tha t i n t h e ^ h e r c h e gon . 3 . C h a u n t e e l e e r 1 s v o i c e and c o l o r f u l appearance r e m i n i s c e n t o f the d e s c r i p t i o n s o f k n i g h t s and s q u i r e s . We need go no f u r t h e r a f i e l d than C h a u c e r ' s own S q u i r e : Embrouded was he , as i t were a meede A l f u l o f f r e s s h e f l c u r e s , whyte a n d . r e e d e . Syngynge he was, o r f l o t t y n g e a l the day . 4 . And i n P e r t e l o t e , we a l m o s t f o r g e t the b i r d i n the p i c t u r e o f 1 . Compare w i t h d i s c u s s i o n o f the e p i t h e t " l y l y e f l o u r " on page 65 above . 2 . V l l 2859-2864. 3 . V l l 2851-2858. 4 . I (A) 8 9 - 9 1 . 71 the mediaeval lady: Of whiche the f a i r e s t e hewed on h i r throte Was cleped f a i r e damoysele P e r t e l o t e . Curteys she was, d i s c r e e t , and debonaire, And compaignable; and bar h y r s l e f so f a i r e , Syn t h i l k e day that she was seven nyght oold, That trewely she hath the herte i n hoold Of Chaunteeleer loken i n every l i t h . 1. I t might be Smelye or Lorigen described here. Between Chaunteeleer and P e r t e l o t e , there was sueh p e r f e c t accord that i t was a joy to hear them s i n g together f o r , l e s t we should be l o s i n g our image of the b i r d s i n the man and woman, i n "...... thiI k e tyme, as I have understonde, Beestes and briddes koude speke and synge." 2. When Chaunteeleer confides h i s dream to P e r t e l o t e , she bursts i n t o speech, and, reproaching him f o r h i s c r e d u l i t y , analyzes h i s symptoms and p r e s c r i b e s the remedy. Women cannot l o v e a coward she maintains; they a l l d e s i r e "To han housbondes hardy, wise, and f r e e , And secree, and no nyhard, ne no f o o l , He hym that i s agast o f i e v e r y t o o l , Ne noon avauntour, by that God above!" 3. The q u a l i t i e s she describes are those that were expected o f 4 l o v e r s i n the works on c o u r t l y love. P e r t e l o t e the damsel i s l i n k e d to P e r t e l o t e the hen by the t a l k a t i v e shrewdness o f P e r t e l o t e the woman. She examines her husband's symptoms, st a t e s t h e i r cause and p r e s c r i b e s c e r t a i n herbs which she w i l l 1. 711 2869-2875. 2. T i l 2880-2882. 3. T i l 2914-2917. 4. Dodd, W.G., Oourtly Love i n Chaucer and Gower, Harvard Studies i n E n g l i s h I, 1913. p.246. 72 show him. We have jus t heard the damsel; here i s the woman -i t might he the Wife of Bath; "I c o n s e i l l e yow the beste, I wol nat l y e , That bothe of c o l e r e amd malencolye Ye purge yow; and f o r ye shal nat t a r i e , Though i n t h i s tfeun i s noon apothecarie, I s h a l myself t o herbes teehen yow 1 That s h u l been f o r youre hele and f o r youre prow." And here i s the hen; "A day or two ye s h u l have digestyves Gf wormes, er ye take youre la x a t y v e s . 2. • • • • • • g Pekke hem up r i g h t as they growe and ete hem yn." In t h i s t a l e , then, Ghaucer has metamorphosed a simple f a b l e i n t o one of the e a r l i e s t and f i n e s t of mock-heroic poems. There i s to be perceived the contrast between the unimportant farmyard i n c i d e n t and the h e r o i c v e i n i n which i t i s r e l a t e d , between the changing images of the hero and heroine: now as cock and hen and again-as knight and la d y . B i n d i n g these two images together, there i s a kind of shrewd 4 humanity about Chauntecleer i n . h i s d e c e p t i o n of h i s w i f e and 5 about P e r t e l o t e i n her l e c t u r i n g of her husband. The a d d i t i o n of t h i s shrewd humanity to the fundamental images i s very c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of Ghaucer. He i s p e r f e c t l y capable of having a t h i r d plane of thought even while he i s most absorbed i n f a s c i n a t i n g us by h i s adept p r e s e n t a t i o n of the two planes at the f o r e f r o n t of h i s mind. A man - l i k e a cock - may be without 1. ¥11 2945-2950. 2. ¥11 29 61-29 68. 3* ¥11 2967. 4. ¥11 3165-3166. 5. ¥11 2908-2969. a p e e r , a hero o f g r ea t p h y s i c a l courage and prowess but he w i l l not be above d e c e i v i n g h i s w i f e - q u i t e h a r m l e s s l y - o r c l o s i n g an u n p l e a s a n t argument by a r e f e r e n c e to her s u r p a s s i n g b e a u t y : "How l e t us speke o f myr the , a n d a l t h i s . Madame P e r t e l o t e , so have I b l i s . Gf o thyng God h a t h sen t me l a r g e g r a c e ; F o r whan I se the beautee of youre f a c e , Ye been so s c a r l e t r e e d aboute youre yen I t maketh a l my drede f o r to d y e n . " 1. And a woman - l i k e a hen - may be c o u r t e o u s , d i s c r e e t , a l a d y o f beau ty and t a s t e but she w i l l n o t be above n a g g i n g he r husband a l i t t l e : "Have ye no mannes h e r t e and han a b e r d ? " 2 . We wa tch the drama of the b a r n y a r d u n f o l d be fo re our eyes , and , as we hea r the c lamour r a i s e d by the Greek chorus o f hens , t h e r e comes to us a f e e l i n g of t h a t r e l a t i v i t y w h i c h i s the v e r y essence o f humour. Our own s e l f - i m p o r t a n c e i s but a r e f l e c t i o n o f C h a u n t e e l e e r * s , our c a t a s t r o p h e s a re as t r i v i a l and q u i c k l y f o r g o t t e n as h i s f a l l , and our w o r l d i s o n l y a l i t t l e l a r g e r than h i s b a r n y a r d . How tha t the C a n t e r b u r y T a l e s have been c o n s i d e r e d i n the l i g h t o f our d e f i n i t i o n o f humour, what c o n c l u s i o n s can be drawn as to the humour o f Ghaucer? I t has become i n c r e a s i n g l y e v i d e n t t h a t a l l the q u a l i t i e s w h i c h we have a t t r i b u t e d to the h u m o r i s t a r e m e r e l y growths from someth ing much more b a s i c : the p o e t ' s a t t i t u d e to l i f e . When we ask o u r s e l v e s i f Chaucer has detachment , sympathy and r ange , we a r e o n l y t r y i n g to f i n d 1. 711 3156-3161 . 2 . 711 2920. out i f he has a p h i l o s o p h y o f l i f e . We a r e a t t e m p t i n g to f i n d the r o o t s o f the p l a n t hy e x a m i n i n g the s h o o t s . That Chaucer has the r e q u i r e d q u a l i t i e s ou r s t udy has shown. The d rama t i c method used i n the T a l e s i s the essence o f detachment . So comple te a mas te ry has Chaucer ove r h i s own f e e l i n g s tha t he e f f a c e s h i m s e l f c o m p l e t e l y ; the man who takes h i s p l a c e among the P i l g r i m s has n o t h i n g i n common w i t h the poet save h i s ou tward appea rance . The r e a l Chaucer i s above the P i l g r i m s i n a k i n d o f "menta l wa t ch - tower " from w h i c h he obse rves t h e i r a b s u r d i t i e s . Y e t the f a c t t ha t he has been and w i l l be a g a i n a p a r t o f the w h i r l i n g l i f e below h i m adds to h i s detachment a f e e l i n g o f sympathy. He has known the y o u t h f u l i l l u s i o n s of the S q u i r e and the d i s i l l u s i o n i n g e x p e r i e n c e s o f the M e r c h a n t . He has f e l t the c o n f l i c t between r e a l i t y and appearance w h i c h was obse rved i n the Man o f l a w . And we f e e l , as we compare Ghaucer the poe t and Ghaucer the p u b l i c o f f i c i a l , t h a t he re i s something of the same d i s o r g a n i z -a t i o n o f c h a r a c t e r as was obse rved i n the p o r t r a i t o f the P r i o r e s s / Moreove r , h i s detachment g i v e s h i s sympathy r a n g e . He d e p i c t s no t o n l y a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e s but i m a g i n a t i v e ones . By e s c a p i n g from the p e r s o n a l p o i n t o f v i e w , he has been a b l e to e x p e r i e n c e i m a g i n a t i v e l y the l o v e s "and ha t e s o f a l l men, and to s e t down the i n c o n g r u i t i e s to be obse rved t h e r e i n . He has eyes bo th f o r the d e l i c a c y o f the P r i o r e s s T "She l e e t no m o r s e l f rom h i r l i p p e s f a l l e " - and f o r the g r o s s n e s s o f the Canon - "But i t was «joye f o r to seen hym s w e t e . " From what a t t i t u d e to l i f e do these q u a l i t i e s -sympathy, detachment , range - s p r i n g ? I t i s an a t t i t u d e t h a t we come to f e e l as we r e a d and r e r e a d the T a l e s , Chaucer does no t s t a t e i t d e f i n i t e l y ; he may not have c o n s c i o u s l y worked i t o u t , bu t i t permeates the T a l e s * I t i s one o f a c c e p t a n c e . There i s n o t h i n g i n s i p i d about t h i s a c c e p t a n c e ; i t i s l i v e l y and a t t imes i r o n i c a l . Chaucer a c c e p t s the s t u b b o r n c o n t r a d i c t i o n s i n man, the p e r s i s t e n t u n a c c o u n t a b i l i t y o f f a t e , n o t r e s i g n e d l y bu t w i t h a l i v e l y i n t e r e s t i n what new p e r v e r s i t y w i l l a p p e a r . The n a t u r a l outcome o f such a p h i l o s o p h y i s t ha t Chaucer s h o u l d be u n d e r s t a n d i n g and t o l e r a n t . C h a u c e r ' s a t t i t u d e o f accep tance g a i n s i n v a l u e when we c o n s i d e r w i t h what c o m p l e x i t y o f mind i t was c o u p l e d . H i s was n o t a p h i l o s o p h y based on l i m i t e d e x p e r i e n c e o r knowledge . I t was a p h i l o s o p h y w h i c h was a l l - e m b r a c i n g . The w o r l d h e l d much to s u r p r i s e Ghaucer bu t n o t h i n g t o d e s t r o y h i s l i v e l y r e l i s h i n i t s r i d d l e s o r to shake h i s serene accep tance o f t h e i r i n s o l u b i l i t y . H i s p h i l o s o p h y enab led h im to observe s t e a d i l y and c l e a r l y the l a y e r upon l a y e r o f i n c o n g r u i t i e s w h i c h h i s s u b t l e mind p e r c e i v e d i n l i f e . As he_ l o o k e d a t the M i l l e r and the K n i g h t , f o r example , he saw i n c o n g r u i t y n o t o n l y i n the j u x t a p o s i t i o n o f the two men and t h e i r t a l e s b u t a l s o i n the codes w h i c h they obeyed. Chauce r , t h e n , i n h i s p h i l o s o p h i c accep tance o f l i f e and h i s q u i c k u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f i t s c o m p l e x i t i e s , shows h i m s e l f to be a h u m o r i s t o f the f i r s t o r d e r . That he had no name f o r the q u a l i t y wh ich so permeated h i s work was an advan tage . 76 Humour, when i t s method i s c l e a r , runs the danger of becoming mechanical. The very f a c t that Chaucer's mode of p r e s e n t i n g . l i f e was not stamped as humorous gave h i s work the naturalness which i s i t s c h i e f charm. BIBLIOGRAPHY B e r g s o n , Henry L . B u t c h e r , S . H . Cazamian , L o u i s F . C h e v a l i e r , Haakon, KE. DodcL, W . G . G r e i g , John Y . T . H a l l i w e l l , H.O. Hobbes , Thomas J o w e t t , B . K a n t , Immanue1 K i t t r e d g e , George L . Lowes , John L . Lowes , John L . L u d o v i c i , Anthony M.. L a u g h t e r . An essay on the meaning o f the c o m i c . A u t h o r i s e d t r a n s l a t i o n by C . B r e r e t o n and F . R o t h w e l l . London , M a c M i l l a n and C o . , L t d . 1 9 1 3 . A r i s t o t l e ' s t h e o r y o f p o e t r y and f i n e  a r t . London , M a c M i l l a n and C o . , L t d . ' The Development o f E n g l i s h Humour. Hew Y o r k , The M a c M i l l a n Company. 1920 . The I r o n i c Temper. Hew Y o r k , Oxfo rd u n i v e r s i t y P r e s s . 1 9 3 2 . Cour t l y I o v e i n Chauc e r and Gower. H a r v a r d S t u d i e s i n E n g l i s h 1, 1913 . The P s y c h o l o g y o f L a u g h t e r and Comedy. Hew Y o r k , Dodd, Mead and Company. 1 9 8 3 . Thorn ton Romances. P r i n t e d f o r the Camden S o c i e t y by John B . H i c h o l s and Son , L o n d o n . 1844 . L e v i a t h a n . London , J . M . Dent & S o n s . . 1928 . The D i a l o g u e s , o f P l a t o . O x f o r d , The C l a r e n d o n P r e s s ' . 1 8 9 2 . C r i t i q u e of A e s t h e t i c Judgment. A T r a n s l a t i o n by James M e r e d i t h . O x f o r d P r e s s . 1 9 1 1 . Chaucer and h i s p o e t r y . Cambridge , H a r v a r d U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s . 1915 . G e o f f r e y Chaucer and the development  o f h i s gen ius* B o s t o n and Hew Y o r k , Houghton M i f f l i n Company. 1934 . The A r t o f Geof f r ey Chaucer . London , Humphrey M i l f o r d , Oxfo rd Unv ' P r e B s . 1930 . The S e c r e t o f L a u g h t e r . London , C o n s t a b l e and C o . 7 L t d . 1932 . I I M a i e r , R . F . and R e n i n g e r , H.W. M a n l y , John , M . M e r e d i t h , George R i c h a r d s , I . A . R i t s o n , J . R o b i n s o n , F . l . R o o t , R o b e r t K . S i d i s , B o r i s S m i t h , W i l l a r d S u l l y , James T a t l o e k , J . S . P . Thomson, James A . K . Weber, H . Z u p i t a , J . A P s y c h o l o g i c a l Approach to l i t e r a r y  C r i t i c i s m . New Y o r k and London , L i ' A p p l e t o n and Company. 1933 . Some New L i g h t Gn Chauce r . London , G. B e l l and S o n s . 1 9 2 6 . — An E s s a y on Comedy and the Uses o f  the Comic S p i r i t . New Y o r k , ~~ C h a r l e s S c r i b n e r ' s S o n s . 1915 . P r a c t i c a l C r i t i c i s m . London , K . P a u l , T r e n c h , Trubner and C o . , L t d . 1929 . . A n c i e n t E n g l i s h M e t r i c a l Romances. E d i n b u r g h , E . G . GoTSTsmid. 1885 . The Complete Works o f G e o f f r e y Chauce r . B o s t o n and New Y o r k , Houghton M i f f l i n Company. 1933 . The P o e t r y o f Chauce r . B o s t o n , New Y o r k , Houghton M i f f l i n Company. 1906. The P s y c h o l o g y o f L a u g h t e r . New Y o r k and London , D . A p p l e t o n and C o . 1 9 1 9 . The N a t u r e o f Comedy. B o s t o n , R . G . B a d g e r . iyao. ~* An E s s a y on L a u g h t e r . London , New Y o r k and Bombay, Longmans, Green and C o . 1902 . The Development and Chrono logy o f C h a u c e r ' s W r i t i n g . Chaucer S o c i e t y . 1907.' I r o n y . An h i s t o r i c a l i n t r o d u c t i o n . London , S . A l l e n and U n w i n . 1926 . M e t r i c a l Romances. E d i n b u r g h , P r i n t e d by George Ramsay and C o . f o r A r c h i b a l d C o n s t a b l e and Co . 1810 . Guy o f Warwick . London, P u b l i s h e d f o r the E a r l y E n g l i s h Text S o c i e t y by M . Trubner and Co . 1883 . 

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