Full version Irony In Canterbury Tales

Irony In Canterbury Tales

This print version free essay Irony In Canterbury Tales.

Category: English

Autor: reviewessays 14 March 2011

Words: 922 | Pages: 4

Irony is a form of speech in which the real meaning is concealed or contradicted by the words used. There are three tales that are fantastic demonstrations of irony. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, “The Pardoner’s Tale”, and “The Nun Priest’s Tale” are the three. While each one is different, each uses irony to teach its characters a lesson.

“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” does not have as much irony in it as the other two tales do. The most major ironical difference is that of the nature of the knight’s crime. He begins so violently as he rapes the young maid. However, he soon begins to show his meek side. Secondly, as the knight feels relief and assurance about a truth he states he will soon experience, irony is also brought into play. Chaucer uses ignorance to get across his idea of irony. For example, he has the knight ignorant of the old hag’s request. As the story furthers itself and the knight is forced to marry the hag, it is ironic that he let’s her choose what she wants to be, because that is exactly the response she wanted. She therefore chooses to be a young, fair maiden who is loyal and trustworthy. The entire time, he thought he would forever be married to an old, ugly woman.

“The Pardoner’s Tale” has perhaps the most irony of all the tales in it. First, the entire story begins ironically when you realize who the narrator of the story is. The Pardoner is speaking out against many crimes; all of which he seems to be guilty of himself. He is a drunkard, sells fake jewelry, and will do anything to build up his riches. All the while, he’s preaching against drunkenness, blasphemy and avarice. In the beginning of the story, the three rioters promise to “live and die each for the other as if they were the other’s own brother born” in protection from Death [lines 375 – 376]. However, as they leave in search of Death, they soon find gold. This gold very quickly changes the hearts of the three rakes and creates division between them. Ironically, they have gone out to find Death because Death stabbed their friend; but they find �death’ themselves. Even more so ironic is how each dies. Upon finding the money, they decide to stay with it until it is dark and they can move it. The draw straws to see who will be sent out for food and wine; the youngest one is the lucky recipient of such a deed. When the youngest one goes out, the two others begin to plot against him. They want to kill him so that they will get his share of money. Likewise, the youngest one is planning to poison the wine of the two others when he returns. When he comes back to the place that they are staying, he is in fact attacked and stabbed, left for the dead. Then, in the most dramatic way possible, the killers sit down to congratulate themselves with wine. Soon, they too are dead because the youngest rake poisoned the wine.

Finally, a third example of irony is that in “The Nun Priest’s Tale”. In the first few lines of the tale, we are told of a “poor widow...had patiently lived a simple life” [lines 1 – 4]. She owns several farm animals and is getting old with age. However, her animals are described as royalty. The animals each had royal names and titles while the woman had no title at all. One example of irony is when Chauntecleer tells Pertelote of his dreams. He says to her that, “Mulier est hominis confusio”, stating that “the sentence of this Latin is, �Woman is man’s joy and all his bliss.’” [lines 344 – 346]. When in all actuality it means that Woman is man’s destruction and downfall. Chauntecleer, just wanting to tease Pertelote, tells her these things. But, she tells him to ignore his dream and this leads to his downfall. The irony comes into play when Chauntecleer is tricked by the fox. When the fox has Chauntecleer in his clutches he tells him that bad things come to those who speak when they should remain quiet. Likewise, the fox is not silent at all and this causes his own downfall. Chauntecleer was captured because the fox flattered him until he did something foolish that would give the fox the chance to move in. Later, Chauntecleer employs the same principles and is able to escape from the fox. Both animals lose in a sense and foolishly brought themselves to the conundrum they are currently in. Bragging and speaking when they needed to be silent brought them down. Finally, as the fox flattered Chauntecleer he mentioned qualities such as wisdom and reasonable defense, mocking each one. But, Chauntecleer never displayed such characters in dealing with the fox; in fact, qualities of just the opposite.

Chaucer employs irony throughout the Canterbury Tales. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, “The Pardoner’s Tale”, and “The Nun Priest’s Tale” are just three examples of irony in the tales. The dramatic irony of each is in place to teach not only the characters a lesson and moral, but the reader as well.