What is love? Explain Chaucer? s attitude toward love. Although we have read only a few of his works so far, we have read several substantial pieces, enough to take a stab at this important and that you may now tackle this central and recurring theme in Chaucer’ s works. You’ll want to look at The Parlement of Foules, of course, and compare it to the treatment of love in The Canterbury Tales we have read so far, bearing in mind Chaucer’ s love for irony (which may appear in any of his works) and the possible interference that Chaucer’s narrators may offer.
Geoffrey Chaucer is certainly known to be someone who knew how to write a good story and especially in the Nunn Priests Tale and other similar recounts he espouses on the subject of love quite often. However he tended to see love rather lightly and in some cases, there is also an element of bawdiness and eroticism in his works especially where women are concerned.
The Parliament of Fools is also an important work in the Chaucer canon as it shows how he would be treating politicians who are of the ilk full of stupidity. This compares well with the Canterbury Tales where the pilgrims make merry and love one another with raucous bawdiness full of erotic allusions and almost pornographic similes.
The Nunn Priests Tale is perhaps one of the finest exponents of love and tawdry bawdiness in the whole of Chaucer’s canon. He is consistently demonstrating how women feign to attract attention and when they get it, they are disappointed and look for something else. The question of man’s love for another woman is also tackled extensively here and this also means that life which can be hard hearted for some will also turn a full page if love is encountered accordingly. Chaucer’s almost philosophical observations move that one step forward accordingly. Priests who are also very bawdy in their tendencies to attract other women are intrinsically part and parcel of proceedings as they create a certain sense of joie de vivre about love which is occasionally absent from their lives. The women in the story also demonstrate Chaucer’s penchant for doing things with an element of irony and interest which culminate in tales that are highly enticing and intriguing.
Comparisons to The Decameron by Boccaccio
Chaucer was not alone in depicting bawdiness as something to do with love and games as Boccacio was also pretty much prevalent in this area. Notwithstanding all this the comparisons end there as there are areas were the language overlaps. Boccacio is quite rowdy and erotic in some of his tales and these also have to do with pilgrims which also have their own tales to tell. Somehow one feels that the Chaucer of The Canterbury Tales is in some ways similar to Boccaccio’s Decameron where the erotic terms are concerned but even in certain stages these may tend to fall apart when read properly and convincingly.
In The Parliament of Foules one can observe that love is in rather short supply although one may also feel that this is intrinsically part and parcel of the whole procedure in the sense that life is not always a bed of roses. Chaucer compares the role of lovers in The Parliament of Foules with that of the Decameron where occasionally life is not the same and what goes on in parliament is certainly not something which goes on in real life.
Boccacio’s Decameron is also perhaps written in more classic Italian than the English which Chaucer writes in and this is perhaps part and parcel of everything which comes before it. The language of love is an important stylistic reference where Chaucer is concerned and all comes together accordingly when the narratives are taken into account.
Chaucer’s personal relationships are also put under the spotlight especially in The Canterbury Tales. One asks the question what is love with a certain amount of temerity and dexterity but basically it is the relationship between a man and a woman which comes across as intrinsic love accordingly. However Chaucer does not only examine these relationships accordingly but he also focuses on what may be achieved when there is love between two siblings for example. These allusions are very powerful especially in The parliament of Foules and in The Canterbury Tales where life is obviously not always a bed of roses in this sense. However life can also be beautiful in the sense of appreciating love which is part and parcel of the whole game of the books Chaucer wrote. Yet we may also seem to abhor certain elements of love and some people may even want to be alone without love.
Finally Chaucer looks at the problem of love with an open mind demonstrating that if this is not taken too seriously then life moves forward just the same. He attempts to throw an element of light heartedness and touches upon this word which man calls love with alacrity and an amount of insecurity also.
Irony and love
Love is also ironic in the manner with which Chaucer treats it especially in the way we are made to look at proceedings from a neutral standpoint. For example in The Canterbury Tales there is also reference to the love of a man for his donkey which is perhaps not something which would spring to mind immediately when the word love is taken into account. There is also the factor which one has to account for when love is portrayed by Chaucer, especially in the manner that the world is portrayed accordingly. Chaucer may not only use extreme irony in The Parliament of Foules but he is also rather circumspect and at times very harsh when love is discussed.
The peculiarities of women when love is taken into account also come across as rather dryish and pervasive as discussed by Chaucer who is not always very concordant with the woman’s psyche. One has to obviously take into account the male dominated society of that day and their almost extreme views on women to be able to proceed here.
Love is a topic which features very much in Chaucer’s works although this is perhaps equal to the irony which pervades it. The comparison between the Parliament of Foulds and The Canterbury Tales is instructive as it shows that life cannot really be weighed from the outside where personal issues are concerned. The strong points of Chaucer’s works are that they tend to be shocking in this respect and they are also clownish too. Perhaps it is true that Chaucer mastered the language of love far better than anyone else in his day and age and the results are there for all to see.
Bisson, Lillian. Chaucer and the Late Medieval World. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. ISBN 0-312-10667-X