In the course of your answer:
- Look closely at the effects of language and imagery in
- Comment on ways in which the passage prepares the reader
for the methods and concerns of The Prologue as a whole.
The 1st 18 lines of the passage are 1 continuous sentence-
a long extended metaphor. Continuity of sentence could be seen
as suggesting an ongoing process, the cyclical, never ending
nature of life. These lines introduce us to the relationship
between man & nature; in TGP as a whole we tend to find
that the more admirable characters have a closer, more harmonious
relationship with nature than the others - eg. Yeoman.
Positive vocab. used to describe nature in the spring - "shoures
soote", "sweete breethe",
Since physical spring & spiritual spring are being equated,
this positive attitude is transferred to the concept of pilgrimage,
esp. when Beckett is described as "holy"
and "blisful" and
given credence as a martyr who "hem
hath holpen whan that they were seeke." Given that
not all of the pilgrims seem to be wholly committed to the faith
-eg prioress - this early legitimisation of the concept of pilgrimage
These 1st 18 lines introduce us to the general idea of pilgrimage;
the next 23 lines introduce us to this particular pilgrimage.
1st 18 lines more lyrical, next 23 more narrative. 1st 18 lines
under control of Chaucer the poet, next 23 under control of
Chaucer the pilgrim?
C. the pilgrim is presented as being somewhat materialistic:
he notices the quality of the bedrooms & stables & comments
on the fact that they are well looked after, saying
"The chambres and the stables weren wide,
And wel we weren esed atte best."
We perceive him as an inquisitive man who is able, in one
evening, to speak to all 29 pilgrims & tell the reader
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
And which they werren, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne"
Obviously also he is aware of the wisdom of group travel,
in the conditions of the time, as he makes considerable effort
to become "of hir fellaweship".
It is suggested this early on that he is a man with an eye
to status, and this becomes more apparent as TGP progresses
and it is made clear that he is easily blinded by rank - see
his acceptance of the prioress and the monk.
Through him the issue of rank or "degree" is introduced
and shown to be important; social hierarchy was still fairly
strictly defined as English society emerged from feudalism,
despite the newly emerging middle class. C. the pilgrim begins
with the knight because he is the highest ranking pilgrim
The issue of clothing is raised, as C. the pilgrim promises
to tell us
"eek in what array that they were inne"
It is a technique within TGP to characterise people not only
by their clothing itself but also by how much attention is given
to it; as a rule the more "worthy" the character,
the less detail is given. eg knight cf prioress.
So we can see that these 1st 42 lines effectively introduce
many of the linguistic techniques and thematic concerns which
will recur both in TGP and the Tales as a whole.