The Canterbury Tales
The Knight and The Squire
Comparative Critical Details
Speaking of Chaucer's time and work, in order to understand the exact extent of his achievement in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, it is necessary to stress the fact that the Middle Ages were not a time of portraits. It was a time of patterns, of allegories, of reducing the specific to the general and then drawing a moral from it. What Chaucer was doing was entirely different.
Before taking into account and analizing the two caracters we have chosen ( the knight and the squire), we have to accept that in the Middle Ages ( and not only, unfortunately), each person was classified according to his or her "estate" or place on the social scale depending on birth, profession, and other factors. Also, Chaucer reminds us that behind all the jokes are the serious truths that he and his pilgrims believed in.
Chaucer's list of attributes often parodies the standards set for a given rank, turning some descriptions into great comedy.
For Chaucer, that meant the nobility, embodied in the Knight and Squire. They represent one of the three "classical" categories of people that are presented in the Prologue, the worriors - " bellatores."
The description of the two caracters follows the pattern generally used by Chaucer in the Prologue : physical details, the temper, the external appearance, the station in life and also, the behaviour.
As soon as we have finished the short presentation, we find out the "gap" or the discontinuity hidden behind the sweet words of the author, not only due to the difference of their age, clothes or "habits" but in a deeper difference - that of concepts, of what should be the natural course of life.
We find no irony in the Knight's description . As Muriel Bowden said, "Chaucer's Knight is the personification of those [courtly] ideals, yet he is far more than the lay figure he would be were he that alone; like the other pilgrims taking this April journey to Canterbury, he is flesh and blood. He is one of those exceptional heroes who strive to live according to a great ideal yet who are at the same time understandably and understandingly human. (A Commentary on the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, 1969 ).
But when we approach the other character - the squire - we simply cannot ignore the fact that this is not what we should normally call " a future knight ." But we, also, cannot say that this is a negative character. Its complexity stands in the subtile mixture of elements that, in fact, brings not only irony but also some " fresh air ` and makes him more human, closer to the real image of a young man, irrespective of times, trends or occupation.
There is an obvious difference between them : the age - not only because the knight is the father ( we don't know exactly whether he is a natural or spiritual father) but because of the many battles he was in.
Concerning physical details,...