Character Satire in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

2302 Words Nov 24th, 2005 10 Pages
Satire of the Knight in Prologue and Knight's Tale

Satire. Satire is a biting literary tool, one that Geoffery Chaucer used liberally when he wrote his Canterbury Tales. Webster's New World Dictionary says that satire is "the use of ridicule, sarcasm, etc. to attack vices, follies, etc." Using that definition, I think that all of the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales are satirized to some extent; some of the satirizations are more subtle than others. The Knight is one of the pilgrims that is more subtly satirized.

Chaucer satirizes knights and chivalry in two different ways: in the prologue and in the Knight's Tale. The first way in the prologue is with the pilgrim Knight's character. Chaucer wanted to present a
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From the texts that I have read from the medieval period, I think that for a medieval person, honor was a combination of being truthful, being polite and decorous, being righteous and having religious integrity. Having a dishonorable knight would be the antithesis of what a "good" knight should be, and I think that making the knight dishonorable is one of the ways that Chaucer satirizes him.

Throughout the entire prologue of the Canterbury Tales, Chacuer uses the idea of having two voices heard. The first voice that is heard is that of the narrator. The narrator is a very naive human being, and is ready to see the good points in even the most rotten of characters. He looks at the Knight, and sees a great guy. After all, the Knight is very well traveled, and has participated in many battles and wars. He thinks the Knight is a good guy.

The second voice that is heard is Chaucer. Chaucer is much more worldly, and more sarcastic. It is Chaucer's voice that satirizes the characters in the Canterbury Tales. One of his more subtle ways of satirization is by what he doesn't say. In the Nun's section of the prologue (which is obviously a satire), most of the biting satire comes from what Chaucer didn't write. He didn't write that she was kind to poor people; he wrote that she was kind to dogs. The same idea can be applied to the Knight. Chaucer says that the Knight is very courageous, very prudent, and very sage, but he never