Chaucer is English’s first great humorist. He interacts with his fellow men progressively and indulgently. He laughs as he lashes. This humorous attitude is sufficient in the Canterbury Tales.
Chaucer’s use of humor in the canterbury tales
Chaucer’s subtle and multifaceted humor is often sympathetic. It is the product of his close observation of men and daily ways. This amused remark is made in the description of the locks of the Squire that seem to have been put on the press. The hat of the Wife of Bath weighs 10 lbs. the fine legs of Reeve, the sharp sauce of Franklin’s weakness, and the Monk and the Friar are amusing. He unveils the Church’s evils with a nice, humorous chuckle. He makes fun of the people who belong to the Church.
The humor of Chaucer has a wide variety. It goes from a delicate shade of good-natured shyness to an absolutely ridiculous laugh. Free, coarse adventures are enjoyable. Here is the fun of irresponsibility, occasionally drunkenness that is part of a sane man’s wellbeing. His humor is sly sometimes.
Chaucer’s humor is new and characterized by tolerance, love, forgiveness, and sympathy. The fools of humanity still have a tinge of pity. The smile or chuckle he raises is remarkably brilliant. The Tales show human nature’s vulnerability, but Chaucer never condemns them as vices. When people laugh at the stories and at each other, there is honored laughter. The author laughs at himself and at them. But this laughter is the quiet, silent laughter that comes from recognizing the natural vulnerability of humanity. There is also no masterly or intimate feeling in the portraits of the Pardoner and the Summoner. In the ‘Wife of Bath’ portrait, we see a typical woman’s shrewd and tyrannical characteristics.
The humor of Chaucer is nothing morbid. His humor reflects his joyful sense of life. His own booming vitality, his multifaceted interest in life and its many facets, and his confidence in humanity have given his humor a distinctive character. He can observe the motley scene of his life with a pleasant smile and a tolerant look. He’s first and foremost a disinterested looker, so he can paint things and people as they are.
His close observation supports his unselfish views of things. The details which he depicts with an eye on their pictorial and funny effects give the reader the most striking impression: the essence of his subtle but delicious mood is embedded in the character presentation. Chaucer had his own approach to human characters, making tremendous progress with romantic writers, who offer us only shadowy abstracted characters, not living characters.
Shakespeare definitely has an even more nuanced art of portraying human characters; otherwise, very few have improved on the Chaucer form, be it poets, dramatists, or novelists. His sense of humor is best seen in his images of men and women who live. He is a master of humor, and he well knows that voice, action, and movement of living men and women represent the true living cause for comedy, so his first problem was to place live men and women of his own age on stage he naturally knew best.