Q. Chaucer’s Humour?
Q. Chaucer Combines Objectivity with Sympathy?
Definition of Humour
Humour means that quality of action, speech, and writing which creates amusement. The true form of humour is that which makes one laugh only for the sake of pleasure and enjoyment. It does not hurt one’s feelings nor it pinches or agonizes.
Chaucer’s characteristics as a great Humorist
Chaucer is a great humorist because he loves mankind in spite of its or follies and weaknesses. Even while he gently unmasks the roguery of the knaves, he fees grateful to them as they give him pleasure. There is no malice, spite or animosity in his attitude. His attitude is that of benevolence and tolerance. Even his satire is in the form of tender shafts of irony, which neither hurt nor destroys.
Chaucer may be regarded as the first great English humorist because no English literary work before his, reveals humour in the modern sense. His humour does not simply raise a simile but also relieve us from seriousness and gloom. He is a great master of humour and all his writing abound with its rich variety. Masefield Calls him:Chaucer possess all the characteristics of a great humorist. Firstly, he has catholicity and tolerance of spirit which save it from slipping into satire. Secondly, Chaucer has the faculty of humour which is fed by keen and penetrating observation Finally, Chaucer has a healthy interest in this world an in life.“a great Renaissance gentleman mocking the Middle Ages”
Chaucer’s humour essentially English in Character
Chaucer’s is an essentially English humour, as we see is qualities in the works of great English humorists like Shakespeare and Fielding. It is not the “wit” of the Frenchman. His humour is chiefly concerned with the people and happenings of everyday life as we see in “The Canterbury Tales”. Some of the facts are quite trivial in themselves but become amusing because of the way in which they are told e.g. the Squir’s locks which as if they were laid in press:Similarly, the hat of the Wife of the Bath weighing 10 lbs.“ With lokkes cruller, as they were leyed in presse”The Reeve’s thin legs, the Franklin’s weakness for sharp sauce etc. In these and other instances, we see the comic quality of amused observation.“Hir coverchief ful fine weren groundI dorste swere they weyeden ten pounds”
Chaucer’s humour: Sympathetic and Objective
Chaucer’s humour is without any sting, he is always sympathetic, except in his handling the Monk and the Friar. He makes us appreciate a character even when laughing at it. His humour is not of satirical kind. As compared to the Langland, who attacks the Church with keen and telling thrust, Chaucerexposes the corruption of the Church with good humoured laugh. Moreover, Chaucer makes fu more of the individual than of the institution. The genial sympathy saves the Chaucer not only from bitterness, but also from bias. Satire is born of indignation.
Langland’s picture of evil does not reflectthe real state of affairs, while on the other hand, it is faithfully mirrored in Chaucer. Therefore, he is an objective humourist, a better realist than an indignant satirist.
Chaucer’s humour for man and humanity
Chaucer is essentially the poet of man and is intensely interested in his affairs. Chaucer humour leads him to be the poet of man and humanity. He ha large humanity and good-humoured tolerance for man. He has no disdain for fools and no disgust for rascals. While gently unmasking the roguery of rogues, he is grateful to them for the pleasure they give. He loves to dwell on their funny traits, looks at their pranks and tricks with amused delight –all these make him a great humourist.
Chaucer’s many sided humour
Chaucer’s humour is many sided. Humour can be used in a broad as well as limited sense. In the narrow sense, it means a gentle mirth. In the broader sense, it stands for boisterous humour, intellectual humour (wit) and bitter humour (satire). Chaucer works reflect all these different types of humour. E.Alber has beautiful expresses the many-sided humour of Chaucer: “In the literature of his time, when so few poets seem to have any perception of the fun in life, the humour of Chaucer is invigorating and delightful” For example, his humour is kind as in the case of the Clerk of Oxford, broad and semi-farcical as in the Wife of the Bath, pointedly satirical as in the Pardonerand the Summoner.
Chaucer’s humour is spontaneous ( natural )
Chaucer’s humour is natural and spontaneous. If is because of his peculiar way of looking at things, as the bent of his mind is essentially humorous. His humour is not the result of deliberate, calculated effort, but it is spontaneous expression of his inner self. Therefore, it has unmistakable marks of ease, spontaneity, naturalness and effortlessness. In the words of Walter Raleigh “his joy is chronic and irrepressible”. The Canterbury Tales radiates with the natural joy that Chaucer felt in writing it.
Impartiality and Tolerance in Chaucer’s humour
In the whole company of the prologue to the canter bury tales there are those that are good and those others that are bad, the later more in number than former. But Chaucer’s attitude to them is neither that of unruffled and quiet objectivity nor of partnership. Guided by his sense of humour, Chaucer observes everything and records each detail with smiling eyes, slightly emphasizing one aspect here or another there, in order to evoke in the reader that psychological state which makes him laugh without any malice. To quote Legouis : “He is entirely patient with, ney he accepts with a smile the imperfection of humanity”.
Tolerance, indulgence and capacity for enjoying life are the mainsprings of Chaucer’s humour. The result is that the portraits he draws become true to life, interesting and enjoyable as life always is, to those whose hearts have not been dried up by the apparently dull and boring routine of life.
Humour for the sake of humour; humour is the medium of Chaucer artistic expressions. Chaucer is never a serious satirist. His aim is primarily to entertain his readers. His aim is never to be a moralist or a preacher. He observes his age sympathetically and humorously. Chaucer does not specifically and directly criticize any institution of his age. He is a poet who explores the theme of the individual’s relation to society.
Chaucer’s humour is the outcome of a generous sympathy and broad-mindedness. These excellences are imitated by the greatest English humorist like Shakespeare and Fielding. Critics may be divided in opinion as to Chaucer’s right to be called the father of English poetry, but there can be no question that he is first great English humorist.
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