By W. A. Davenport
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Extra info for Chaucer and his English Contemporaries: Prologue and Tale in The Canterbury Tales
The actual portraits which make up the larger part of this idiosyncratic piece are not schematised either by estate, nor by moral status. If we analyse them in terms of the degree of emphasis which Chaucer seems to be giving to particular topics, then the portraits may be classed as six long representations of religion (in descending order of length: Friar, easily the longest, Parson, Pardoner and Summoner, Prioress, Monk), five medium-length secular pictures (Knight and Reeve, Doctor, Wife of Bath, Franklin), ten shorter sketches, mostly of men in secular life (Clerk, Shipman, Man of Law and Miller, Squire, Manciple, Yeoman, Merchant, Plowman, Cook), and a few also-rans (Nun's Priest , the five Guildsmen and a disputed number of extra nuns).
The Goliard world of jolly monks, belching and rollicking across the landscape, is raised by description of the Monk; we could expect a genre picture, like the carousing cardinals which appealed to a later pictorial taste, literature of illicit pleasure and the breaking of restraints. With the Friar comes the suggestion of literature of specious worldly activity, with the religious man in a lay world of landowners and their wives; witty stories of a schemer's progress through the world of the comfortably off might result, turning on manipulation, exploitation and social ironies.
Gower, Langland and Chaucer's General Prologue Chaucer, Gower and Langland all provided their major English poems with sturdy frameworks, which required substantial int roductory sections for their explanation and establishment: these introductions Prologues 21 are usually called 'Prologues', though whether that is the best word in each case is debatable. Gower's version is the one which is most easily explained in the light of medieval literary theories of prologue. The opening section of Confessio Amantis is a structured, extrinsic prologue (an intrinsic prologue follows at the beginning of Book I) .