Throughout the course of this essay I am going to discuss the extent to which I believe that “Chaucer’s characters are more than photo fits they are real life portraits. ” I feel that this seems to be a very accurate view to The Canterbury Tales. I can not however tell that the characters are not just created by Chaucer’s imagination because I have not read enough from that time period to tell whether or not everybody in that era was writing with the same amount of detail to their characters and their attitudes.
This would have given me a better perspective on Chaucer’s work and I would have seen whether it was in keeping with the norm which would have helped me to intensify my argument. The description that Chaucer uses throughout the general prologue is incredibly detailed and draws attention to even the smallest and subtle physical aspects of his characters. These can also hint at what the person may be like as he wants the reader to judge by physical appearance first so that they get an image of the character before they speak.
One such time is where he is describing the Wife of Bath and says “Gat-toothed was she. ” This minute detail is very personal and some people may feel that Chaucer would have only written this if he had actually viewed someone with this physical attribute. It may also be indicative of her immoral attitude. We can tell that she is not to be trusted completely because she claims to have been married five times and as divorce is not an option because of the time period in which it is set. This leaves only bigamy on her part or all of the previous husbands having died.
This raises questions as to whether she married rich powerful men or not. This may have given her a motive to kill them. She also claims to have great experience in the ways of the heart, having a remedy for whatever might ail it. She had a different viewpoint to marriage than was expected of women at the time. Another interesting aspect of her is: “Of clooth-making she hadde swich an haunt She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt. ” I feel this because it shows that she is one of the finest cloth makers of the time which means she has a lot of skill. This can be interpreted in two ways.
Firstly it may just mean that she is a rather gifted woman or secondly and probably more likely is the fact that she has a lot of skills in other aspects of her life more specifically the bedroom. These things may all be based on different people that Chaucer has observed while writing his novel and he decided to incorporate them so as to make his characters seem more real. During Chaucer’s time women like this would have been accepted into polite society if they had a lot of money and were able to “buy there way in. ” Those in polite society would have been few and far between.
Hence it is more likely that Chaucer observed this kind of behavior among the illiterate and lower classes. These types of people would have been great to observe to give him basis for his character. The Miller is described in very intricate detail by Chaucer as he even goes into such detail as to say: “Upon the cop right of his nose he hade A werte, and theron stood a tuft of heris” This is such a personal and distinguishing characteristic that it can only have been through observation that he came upon this. It is also hard to envisage someone going to all this trouble and attention to detail for a Character that they have just made up.