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Canterbury Tales - In and Out
Sit and Spin: Chaucer’s social commentary grows from so-called "intrusion" The relationship Geoffrey Chaucer establishes between "outsiders" and "insiders" in The Canterbury Tales provides the primary fuel for the poetry’s social commentary. Both tales and moments within tales describing instances of intrusion work to create a sense of proper order disturbed in the imaginary, structured universes presented by the pilgrims. The perturbances, conflicts born of these examples of, "intrusion into the inner circle," bear the responsibility for most of the ironic-comedic role reversal on which the Tales thrive. From the knight’s rape of a maiden in the Wife of Bath’s fantastic tale to Absolon’s jamming of a hot iron into Nicholas’ rectum in the Miller’s tale, examples of such invasion and inversion represent the foundations of most of the tales’ plots. Chaucer exposes his fundamental device in the opening stanza of the General Prologue. The first five lines of the poetry address only major natural forces—"Aprill with his shoures soote," (1) and, "Zephirus…with his sweete breeth" (5). Life forms, first grain and then birds, grow organically from these bricks of the earth. The poet creates a chain of existence molded into a comfortable hirearchy that culminates in "smale foweles maken melodye" (9) after the mountain of nature from which they were born jabs them into action. Man drops...