Chaucher e l'analisi di "The Merchant"

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Geoffrey Chaucher.
Geoffrey Chaucher born in 1343, son of a wine merchant, socially ambitious. He fought in France with Edward’s III son. He was taken prisoner and ransomed by the king. He was sent on missions abroad by the king. During his journeys he came to Italy, where he knew the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio; he read in Latin also Virgil,
About 1386 he was dismissed from all his offices and he worked on Canterbury Tales. He was the first poet to be buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.
His work are varied and we can distinguish three periods:
1. the French;
2. the Italian;
3. the English;
In the first period he copied the France romances and wrote “The Romaunt of the Rose”, about the medieval court behaviour about courtly love; “The book of the Duchess” in which the knight tells of his grief for the loss of his wife. It is a universal grief of all men for the death of all good wives.
In the Italian period we have “The Parliament of Foules” where the birds talk like in a fable; “The house of fame” about the vanity of human wishes; “The legend of good women” about the unhappy of the women who suffer for love; “Troilus and Criseyde” a poem adopted from Boccaccio, that is a psychological study of the characters. In these two periods there is an imitation.
The third period, English period, is the most original where life is seems with realism. In this period we have the Canterbury Tales, written in Middle English or Standard English, that is the base of modern English.

Chaucher, Boccaccio and Dante.
The characters of the Canterbury Tales belonged mostly to the middle class society. In the social ladder only the nobles and the very poor are not represented. The Tales included romance, fabliau, beast-fable and moral fable. He imagines that a group of people go on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas of Canterbury. Each pilgrim, 30 in all, including Chaucher, had to tell two stories on the way back. In each tale each of the pilgrims corresponded to the personality of the character of the story and what has told reflected a different social world.
The device of the collection of tale had started with Boccaccio’s Decameron in which ten speakers tell a tale each for ten days.
Differently from the pilgrims they are in a castle in the countryside near Florence to escape the plague and they are all nobles.
Both Boccaccio and Chaucher used the framework to describe the characters who will tell the stories both physically and psychologically. Another Italian precedent was Sir Giovanni Sercambi’s “Il Novelliere” where one narrator on a journey tells some tales.
Chaucher had gone on diplomatic mission to Italy (Genoa, Milan, Florence) and he probably knew or met Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio.
Chaucher never said to have known Boccaccio and the story of Griselda, he said, was derived from a Latin version by Petrarch.
However also “Troilus and Criseyde”, a story of courtly love, was taken from Boccaccio’s Filostrato. Therefore he knew Boccaccio, even if he never mentioned him.
Some critics had found some points of contact between Chaucher and Dante, in the Italian period, where he translated from Dante, he took something from the “Divina Commedia”.
The idea of the pilgrimage might have come from Dante’s pilgrimage through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. A realistic English pilgrimage for Chaucher, a spiritually pilgrimage for Dante.

Chaucher in his poetry says that in April people like going on pilgrimages and that in april rain brings new life to nature. Moreover also Zephyrus awakens nature. The little bird sing because nature is leaving again. People want to go on pilgrimage after a long winter. A group of pilgrims meet at the Tabard in Southwark, because they want to go to Canterbury to thank the saint after a long winter. They became friends.
Chaucher is at the Inn and joins the group, but before starting the pilgrimage ha wants to describe the pilgrims, the middle class of his time, their condition, their clothes, tell us about their jobs. The first pilgrim described is a knight.

The Merchant.
The Merchant is described physically: he has a forked beard; he is wearing a hat and boots with a buckled. He sat high on his horse and told his opinions in solemn tones.
He was an expert in exchanging and in the administration: loans and business. But he didn’t know his name.
He is a representative of the middle class in the English medieval society and his profession conditioned his behaviour.
The description of his clothes and the reference to geographical places are realistic.
He has an ambiguous, reserved personality. He is a man who gives importance to money, but perhaps he hid that in was in debt, even if he never judges his character.