Geoffrey Chaucer As A Humorist Poet is carefully presented his characters in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, we come to know that Chaucer has a great command over using the technique of humour and satire. As it is rightly said that a humorist is a great humanist because he loves mankind in spite of its foibles and weaknesses. His heart is always tender and sympathetic towards other human beings, because if he points out their foibles, shortcomings weaknesses, vices, frivolities, absurdities and oddities then he does so only for the reformation of their follow beings and that satirist is called a great satirist, being respected and honored by every one.
So, there should be no malice, spite or animosity in his attitude of a great humorist and a satirist. Their attitude is that of benevolence and tolerance. Chaucer was basically a born humorist. He was actually the master of humour and irony. There is no doubt in saying that he was the first true humorist in English Literature, and it was by his humour that Chaucer had won a permanent place in the hearts of his readers. The uniqueness and sublimity of his art of writing really and mainly depend on his great art of using the technique of humour and satire. Actually humour was the stuff and substance of his entire mentality and the essence of his art.
It was humour that made his poetry a fountain of joy. He was a great master of humor and belonged to the race of the great humorist of English literature and was rightly in the company of Shakespeare, Fielding and Dickens. It is one of the great traits , and qualities of Chaucer’s art of humour which gives amazing and superb life like touch to them. He may be regarded as the first great English humorist.
There is no doubt in terming him as the first writer to reveal a genuine sense of humour and it is that humour which still exists in our present age in its pure and genuine condition and we recognize it today.Having all the great characteristics of a great humorist; his faculty of humour has a healthy effect and signs in the life of various characters. He observes the absurdities, oddities and foibles in human society with great interest and a smile. These are two traits of catholicity and tolerance of spirit which make him a great humorist of his age. As far as the matter of the Prologue is concerned, it is full of humorous illustrations and honour appears abundantly in various portrayals of the characters. It is very noteworthy to point here that Chaucer’s humour in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is mostly ironic and satirical. We have very apt examples of pure humour in it also.
A pure humour is such a kind of humour in which the motive is laughter for its own sake. Like Shakespeare and Fielding, Chaucer’s humour is born of a strong commonsense and a generous sympathy and it is seen in the original form in the Prologue. As there are some of the facts which are quite trivial in their true nature but all of these become very interesting and amusing because of the way. in which they are told. For example, the squire’s locks which weighing 10 lbs, the Reeve’s thin legs, Franklin’s weakness for sharp sauce etc.
As we have already mentioned and described that a great and true humorist is always a man of sympathetic heart. Chaucer’s humour is always sympathetic, except in his handling of the Monk and the Friar. In his handling of the Wife of Bath, he reminds us of Shakespeare’s treatment of Sir Toby in Twelfth Night. In other words, we can say that he makes us appreciate a character even when laughing at it.
Spontaneity is another great quality of Chaucer’s humour because his humour is natural and spontaneous. His humour does not appear in the result of self made calculated efforts but it erupts from him in a spontaneous expression of his inner-self. Therefore, it has unmistakable marks of ease, spontaneity, naturalness and effortlessness. Chaucer does not only mark the other characters as the victim of his humour and satire but he is always ready to sustain a jest over at his own cost. He feels a great delight in raising a gentle smile at himself when he speaks of his fancied shortcomings, poverty and refers to himself as a simple unlettered man. He rightly utters about himself in this regard in the following remarks:
“My wit is short, ye may well understand”.
The element of paradoxically is very much prominent in Chaucer’s art of humour and satire because he says something but suggests just the opposite. Though he speaks with his own tongue and often seems to be praising some other characters yet his praise is often criticism in disguise which can be termed as left handed compliment. In this connection, a very evident example of the Monk can be quoted to prove the above mentioned statement. According to Chaucer, a Monk does not attack any importance to the text, which condemns hunting and who enjoins the other Monks to lead a simple life. In the very next breath, Chaucer slyly adds.;
“And I sayde his opinionn, was good” .
In addition to this, Chaucer’s satire is good humored and well meant. Chaucer’s humour is very much closely linked or connected with satire and irony. But his intention is not much correct through satire as to add fancy to his humour. Most of the time, he uses irony only to portray satirical portraits which makes us laugh and delight.
As far as the matter of satire in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is concerned which is oftenly directed against religious corruption and against women and incidentally against love and marriage. The element of a farcical satire is very much observed in the case of the Wife of Bath. In the depiction of the ‘Wife of Bath”, he rightly utters:
“She was a worthy woman al hir lyue,
Housebounds at ckirche dore she hadds five,
Of remedies of love she knew her – channce,
For she coulde of that art the old daunce”
It becomes very subtle and implicit in the case of prioress. Here Chaucer speaks in the very satirical manner and says:
“At metewely-tuuglit was she with alle,
She leet no more from her lippes falle”.
So, we see that in the case, of handling religious characters, his satire becomes more serious because it raises the question of Chaucer’s own attitude towards religion. The satirical tone is ever present in the character of the Monk.
To conclude this topic, it can be said openly and , vehemently that his satire even becomes more : poignant and sheer in the case of religious characters. And Geoffrey Chaucer As A Humorist Poet outstandingly presents the fun facts with the help art of characterization with realistic approach. As in the case of the character of Summoner, he utters ‘ in the following words.
“A fewe terms hadde he two or thre,
That he had lernd out of som decree,
No wonder is, he herde it al the day;
And eek ye knowen well how that å jay Kan elepen
watte as wel as kan the peop.