Writer’s Choice

After the Prioress tells her tale, all the Pilgrims are silent. With the other tales, there has always been a verbal response. Why is there silence after her tale? Granted, one can project just about anything onto silence, but still….To break that silence the Host begins to banter with Geoffrey the Narrator. He says that the Narrator is staring at the ground. What does this suggest? When we stare at the ground after someone speaks, what does it usually mean? The Host then refers to the Narrator’s face or facial expression as “elvyssh.” This is a word that you need to look up in both the Oxford Englsih Dictionary online and in the Middle English Dictionary online. The OED gives an important meaning not provided by the MED—or by either the Broadview or the Riverside Chaucer; and it is a meaning that was in use at the time that Chaucer was writing. You need to consider what that meaning might imply and what it might tell` us about Geoffrey’s response to the tale told by the Prioress. When you look up this word in both online dictionaries, you will need to spell it “elvish.” Spelling was not standardized in Chaucer’s time. When you look up “elvish” in the MED, note the quotations that support the definition. Most are from Chaucer’s works. Given that “elvish” is used by the Canon’s Yeoman to describe the pseudo-alchemy performed by the Canon, a first-rate con-artist, what do you think the Canon’s Yeoman means by “elvish”?

Once you have done this preparation, write a 3 to 5 page paper discussing Geoffrey’s portrait. Consider that it is given through the eyes of the Host. Most important, from the portrait what do you think Geoffrey’s response to the Prioress’s tale was? After all, we get his portrait at a crucial moment when everyone is silent, including Geoffrey, who has been looking at the ground. Notice too that the Host at first addresses Geoffrey, but then switches to third person as he describes Geoffrey to the other Pilgrims, then switches back to addressing Geoffrey directly. What is going on here?

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