Most people identify Geoffrey Chaucer as one of the greatest pioneers of English poetry. And one of his most outstanding achievements lies in being an unparalleled painter of realism. Yes, readers and critics both unhesitatingly recognize him as a matchless realistic artist whose creativity is acutely evident in his art.
Chaucer’s realism is indeed extraordinary. He was probably the first author who dared to distance himself from embracing allegorical representation in his works. And one can easily sense this truth by reviewing his creations through the mirror of medieval literature.
Yes, most writers leaned deeply towards allegory and sermons to invent their stories during the medieval era. Some even used “dream vision” as a literary tool to construct their plot for shaping attractive tales.
However, Geoffrey Chaucer broke this common trend for the first time. He instead preferred to welcome realistic depiction. As a realistic artist, he emerged as the representer of realism in words. Several literary experts of his time and later cordially greeted this approach but with a different sense.
Some experts defined this presentation of realism as a significant conversion to a new attitude. That means shifting from a known, monotonous viewpoint to a better-accepted frame of mind. In short, these literary pundits identified it as a more refined and polished Chaucerian poetic artistry.
There is no denying that poetry moulded with a new mood, tone, and acceptance through the English poet’s works. Moreover, these creations unfolded an open-minded curiosity among the readers. People got a new enthusiasm to study humans and human behaviours. And it was the first time Chaucer compelled readers to feel, understand and recognize the association between an individual and ideas.
The English poet’s works first displayed that ideas remained alive for a certain period and, after that, faded away. But simultaneously, those ideas became captivating and engaging by divulging the man who exhibited them or felt delighted and trusted them.
However, manifesting the said outlook by effacing an existing medieval point of view was not easy for Chaucer. It needed a solid determination to get detached from the old one and become the bearer of a new sensible, real-life viewpoint. Chaucer’s writings clearly show, even today, that he indulges in bringing realism being completely wide awake.
His style of expression proves that his artistry can’t get restricted to unlock the identity of a writer only. Yes, apart from being a great storyteller, he is a good narrator, a chronicler, and an excellent portrayer of human characters. Interestingly, he depicts humans as accustomed to but never strives to dominate or rule their saying or thoughts.
His words show the portrayal of the fourteenth century England society and its inhabitants during his time gets crafted with true practicality and matchless accuracy. Now, drawing this practicality surfaces as his ultimate realism that recognizes him as an annalist or chronicler of the English society. His famous poem, The Canterbury Tales, is an excellent example of this fact.
The characters in this poem are ordinary people, including women and men. They behave just like other normal people crafted with flaws, weaknesses, and foibles. The best thing is they speak in a colloquial and conversational tone. Most importantly, their words look like the speech of ordinary persons. In short, an absolute candidness exists in the language of the story that makes Chaucer a unique realistic artist.
His realism hides in his in-depth portrayal of characters. Chaucer introduces a society of real human beings in his poem, The Canterbury Tales. Yes, a society inhabited by people made of flesh and blood. In truth, it is a world that depicts humanity and doesn’t emerge as a land of fairy tales. In a word, many decades ago, Geoffrey Chaucer inaugurated realism in the arena of English literature through his creations and let it stay alive perpetually.