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The Skipper in the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

In the book “The Canterbury tales”, Geoffrey Chaucer (1977) presents 24 stories where the author satirically portrays life in medieval England and people who belong to various professions. The narrative begins with the prologue, where the author explains how such a company of people with different social backgrounds could form. The readers are told that all the heroes are heading to Canterbury Cathedral as pilgrims. In addition, Chaucer shortly describes each main character of the book, including the external appearance and internal qualities. The latter two present the views and prejudices that the author and his contemporaries held about the people from each class in English society of that time. Yet, the book does not always openly state what the significant features of every group are; rather, it provides hints through symbols (Alb, 2020). In this regard, the current essay will discuss how Chaucer describes the people of certain occupations through one individual, taking the Skipper as an example.

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The first fact that the readers discover about the Skipper is that he is the salesman (probably, a pirate) who ‘makes one’s way in the world’ through brute strength and cunning. For instance, in lines 402 and 403, the narrator says, “a dagger on a lanyard falling free hung from his neck under his arm and down” (Chaucer, 1977). Such a description allows the audience to understand that the Skipper is brave and is able to protect one’s life if he faces danger. Additionally, it is shown that he kills his enemies once they are defeated and captured. On the other hand, line 407 states that the Shipman steals from the traders on his ship, which suggests that such type of behavior may be very natural for him in general. Therefore, it can be concluded that Chaucer and many of his contemporaries viewed salesman as ruthless people who usually earn money for living in an unfair manner.

Secondly, Chaucer portrays the Skipper as a man with a lack of moral principles. Indeed, as it was mentioned earlier, this character often steals from other people and even from those close to him. Also, he can kill other people without any remorse or pity towards the victims. Most probably, the Skipper even considered it as something to be proud of as the line states, “…He sent his prisoners home; they walked the plank”, which humorously describes his ‘kindness’ (Chaucer, 1977, line 410). For this reason, the narrator claims that “the nicer rules of conscience he [the Skipper] ignored” (Chaucer, 1977, line 408). Thus, it becomes clear that Chaucer calls the Skipper an excellent man only ironically.

Finally, the last feature of the Shipman that Chaucer is related to the professional expertise of the latter. For instance, lines 411-418 state that this character knew very well all the waters around England and could easily navigate in the sea (Chaucer, 1977). Therefore, despite the author criticizing the Skipper for the lack of moral principles, he at the same time admires the hero’s skills and abilities.

In summary, the current essay showed how Chaucer could communicate his and his contemporaries’ prejudices concerning people of various occupations in medieval England, taking one of the book’s main characters – the Skipper – as an example. The analysis revealed that the latter hero represented the group of salesmen. The author describes them as brave individuals who are very good in their profession. However, on the contrary, Chaucer argues that the group that the Skipper belongs to is also brutal, cunning, and lacks a firm understanding of what is good and bad. Hence, using not many words, the author could create a thorough description of the character, including positive and negative aspects of his personality.

References

Alb, M., (2020). The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue by Geoffrey Chaucer. Poem Analysis. Web.

Chaucer, G. (1977). The Canterbury tales. Penguin Books.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, November 24). The Skipper in the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-skipper-in-the-canterbury-tales-by-geoffrey-chaucer/

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StudyCorgi. "The Skipper in the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer." November 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-skipper-in-the-canterbury-tales-by-geoffrey-chaucer/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Skipper in the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer." November 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-skipper-in-the-canterbury-tales-by-geoffrey-chaucer/.

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