Assess Chaucer’s contribution to the development of English literary tradition with reference to ‘The Prologue’ to The Canterbury Tales. Ans:
Chaucer is commonly hailed as “the father of English poetry” who in such works as his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, significantly contributed to the development of English as a literary language. The “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales has often been praised as “the most perfect poem in the English language.” The Canterbury Tales and his other notable works reflect Chaucer's familiarity with French, English, Italian, and Latin literature, and demonstrate his consummate mastery of a variety of literary genres, styles, and techniques. His poems continue to draw the interest and praise of readers centuries after his death and are among the most acclaimed works of the English-speaking world. The originality of his language and style, the vivacity of his humor, and the depth of his understanding are continually cited as reasons for the permanence of his works.
Chaucer's decision to write in his country's language, English, rather than in the was something of a risk, and a big break with learned tradition. The risk paid off. The Canterbury Tales were enormously popular because so many more manuscripts of the tales survive than of almost any other work of this time period. The Canterbury Tales were still going strong when the first printers made their way to England. William Caxton published the first printed version of The Canterbury Tales in 1476.
One of the things that makes The Canterbury Tales so fun to read is the great detail with which the narrator describes each of the pilgrims. We learn, for example, that the cook has a pustule on his leg that very much resembles one of the desserts he cooks, or that the miller has a huge, pug nose. For many of his portraits, Chaucer is relying on a medieval tradition of "estates satire," a collection of stereotypes about people based on what occupation they had...
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