By Gail Ashton (auth.)
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Additional resources for Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales
How far do the initial portraits prepare the reader for the plot ahead? Look too at the interaction of these characters especially the sort of language each uses. In what ways might this use of language be revealing? • How does Chaucer prepare the audience for the events to come? How does the narrative unfold? Style and Narrative Skills 23 • Look at the ways in which humour is conveyed in either the description of a character or through the narrative or plot. To help, you might like to focus upon the sorts of techniques identified in this chapter.
In addition they might be stimulated by the misalignment of bodily functions, by 'fume', or by an imbalance of bodily fluids or 'humours', believed by medieval people to fix personalities or dispositions. Chauntecleer's dream is analysed as stemming from an excess of his red choleric humour which stimulates fearful dreams of attack, of 'contek' or strife, of dreadful dogs, red flames, red beasts. In the same way a melancholic humour promotes frightening dreams centred on the colour black. Pertelote's analysis is a straightforward explanation of Chauntecleer's fear.
Dreams, like writing, were invested with masculine power; here Pertelote cites a masculine author as her own authority, though the suggestion is that she does so inaccurately. As we have already observed, the contrast between Chauntecleer's heightened, imaginative description of the dreambeast, and Pertelote's coarse, dismissive response, is extremely funny and designed to bring Chauntecleer down to earth with a bump. You could set this passage against his lengthy reply where he cites dream lore and a seemingly endless list of authors and authorities in a contrasting ideal.