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Durham e-Theses
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A Comparison of the treatment of ecclesiastical figures in Chaucer’s Canterbury tales and Langland’s vision of William concerning piers the Plowman

Taitt, P. S. (1969) A Comparison of the treatment of ecclesiastical figures in Chaucer’s Canterbury tales and Langland’s vision of William concerning piers the Plowman. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

The Thesis attempts a comparative examination of literary techniques used by Chaucer and Langland in their characterisation of religious figures and their reflection of the religious practices in the fourteenths century. The study is divided into three main sections, the first two of which accord separate treatment to ecclesiastical characters in the Canterbury Tales and Piers Plowman respectively. The third section attempts to draw together the separate observation made previously in a comparative study of particular literary techniques under the five separate heading of characterisation, Irony, Metaphor, word play and conventional devices. The choice of ecclesiastical figures as the basis of a comparative treatment has been made because of the large amount of space devoted by each poet of these figures. The thesis attempts to show that Chaucer’s characters are invested with humanly recognisable traits which make them a blend of individual human beings with unique characteristics and ecclesiastical types, representatives of a total class. Chaucer seems more tolerant of human foibles, less ready to criticise directly, more willing to reveal what he sees and to permit the reader to judge for himself. However, he appears to assume in the reader a knowledge of the ideals of behaviour incumbent upon the characters he portrays. Landland, on the other hand, appears to lack the tolerance, or willingness, simply to reveal the weakness of his ecclesiastics. Throughout his poem his method is to express an opinion directly and to reinforce his attack by example examples drawn from literature and from scripture. The element of realistic characterisation is rare in his treatment of ecclesiastical figures, so that his work has a more consciously serious tone, which draws a dark picture of the consequences of religious abuse. The thesis concludes by attempting to show just how particular techniques demonstrate a difference in attitude between the two poets.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1969
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:23

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