“The Canterbury Tales” follows 20 or so pilgrims to Canterbury, and on their journey the reader gains some insight into their individual crusades. Chaucer provides us with an ample array of figures: carpenter, cook, knight, monk, clerk merchant, and very busty miller. These characters come from every area of culture in the 14th century and provide Chaucer with the opportunity to speak in different voices. The characters would be well juxtaposed between one another. One who has allowed greed to rule over his life, the other is a classic hero, and the other is a commoner who is living a sin. This wide variety of lively characters Chaucer uses shows that he truly was a writer of the people, as his stories represent all walks of life. Chaucer portrays these characters to provide enjoyment to his readers, but also to teach lessons on behavior.
The author uses several techniques to create lively characters, but the most common is direct and indirect characterization.
Through indirect characterization, Chaucer reveals a character's personality through appearance, actions, or speech. The writer generally uses hints such as physical appearance, clothing, hobbies, and activities to make suggestions about the types of people his characters are. For example, Friars during Chaucer's time were often poor and lived off donations or through other people's charity. However, the Friar in Chaucer's "The Friar's Tale" is a jovial man who makes a living off of rich men. Instead of wearing shabby beggar's clothing, the Friar is dressed in expensive garbs. The character is portrayed as a greedy hypocrite that is willing to take bribes.
Direct characterization in The Canterbury Tales is used to describe a variety of Chaucer's characters.For example, "The Canon's Yeoman's Tale" offers some examples of direct characterization. In this story, a group of travelers meet the Canon and his servant, the Yeoman. Later, the Yeoman claims that the Canon lost all of his money to alchemy in search of something called the Philosopher's Stone. The fact that the Canon was dressed in worn-out clothing supports these claims. Later, the Yeoman tells a story of another deceitful canon who tricks a priest into thinking that he can turn metals into gold. In this part of "The Canon's Yeoman's Tale," the priest is directly characterized as greedy, and the Canon is directly characterized as a trickster.
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