Chaucer's Tale of Sir Topas


Chaucer's Tale of Sir Topas
Geoffrey Chaucer

Sir Thopas is a story in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales published in 1387.

In Canterbury Tales, there is a character named Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer's portrait of himself is unflattering and humble. He presents himself as a reticent, maladroit figure who can barely summon a tale to mind.[1] In comparison to the other travelers in the group, Chaucer the character is reluctant to speak, but when he does tell a tale, it is a rather frivolous burlesque very different from what went before.

Sir Thopas is the story in tail rhyme of a child knight who goes on a quest to find his elf-queen but is waylaid by the giant Sir Oliphant (elephant). He runs back to his merry men for a feast of sweets and to ready for a battle with his giant foe. The tale is interrupted by the Host, though, for its tail rhyme format and is never finished. The tale is a parody of romances, with their knights and fairies and absurdities, and Chaucer the author satirizes not only the grandiose, Gallic romances, but also the readership of such tales.

The tale is a hodgepodge of many of the popular stories of the time which even apes their simple rhymes, a style Chaucer uses nowhere else. Elements of deliberate anticlimax abound in as much as the poem as Chaucer is allowed to present. The knight's name is in fact topaz, one of the more common gemstones; in Chaucer's day, "topaz" included any yellowish quartz. The knight hails from Flanders, which earlier had been a favorite haunt of errant knights but in Chaucer's time was better known for prosaic merchants. In the only scene of derring-do that Chaucer tells in the two and a half chapters he gets in, Sir Topas flees the battle, pelted by stones. The poem thus contains many suggestions that it was intended in a mock-heroic sense.

Thopas is the first of what is usually called the surprise group of tales, as each is quite different from the preceding and they are seemly written to confound expectations. The host, Harry Bailey, does not seem to appreciate this new style of tale and he interrupts Chaucer, telling him that "thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord".

The character Chaucer then tells the laborious and dull debate of the Tale of Melibeus. Again, this is in keeping with the character Chaucer: a man of too much learning and too little experience. The tale is full of moral sentiment and philosophy, but it is fairly slow for modern readers.

The reception of Sir Thopas is perhaps the most interesting thing about it. When Chaucer began to be treated as a treasure of English letters after his death, his satiric intent was lost. Into the 18th century, readers regarded Harry Bailey's interruption as a sign of poor breeding, and they treated the tale of Sir Thopas itself as a great work. It was Thomas Warton who first suggested (at least in print) that Chaucer was not serious, that the whole tale is a parody and that the character of Geoffrey Chaucer must not be confused with Geoffrey Chaucer the author.

See also

References

  1. ^ Prologue to Sir Thopas - lines 8-21

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chaucer's Retraction — is the final section of The Canterbury Tales. It is written as an apology, where Geoffrey Chaucer asks for forgiveness for the vulgar and unworthy parts of this and other past works, and seeks absolution for his sins. Wherfore I biseke yow mekely …   Wikipedia

  • Geoffrey Chaucer — Chaucer redirects here. For other uses, see Chaucer (disambiguation). Geoffrey Chaucer …   Wikipedia

  • The Tale of Melibee — (also called The Tale of Melibeus) is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. This is the second tale told by Chaucer himself as a character within the tales. It has long been regarded as a joke on the part of Chaucer that, after being… …   Wikipedia

  • The Franklin's Tale — Dorigen and Aurelius, from Mrs. Haweis s, Chaucer for Children (1877). Note the black rocks in the sea and the setting of the garden, a typical site for courtly love. The Franklin s Tale (Middle English: The Frankeleyns Tale) is one of The… …   Wikipedia

  • The Miller's Tale — For the 1996 rock album, see The Miller s Tale: A Tom Verlaine Anthology. The character Miller from The Miller s Prologue and Tale The Miller s Tale (Middle English: The Milleres Tale) is the second of Geoffrey Chaucer s Canterbury Tales (1380s… …   Wikipedia

  • The Merchant's Tale — Contents 1 Summary of the tale 2 The Fabliau debate 3 Sources and variants …   Wikipedia

  • The Man of Law's Tale — The Man of Law (or lawyer) from The Canterbury Tales The Man of Law s Tale (also called The Lawyer s Tale) is the fifth of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, written around 1387. Contents …   Wikipedia

  • The Prioress' Prologue and Tale — The Prioress s Tale follows The Shipman s Tale in Geoffrey Chaucer s The Canterbury Tales . Because of fragmentation of the manuscripts, it is impossible to tell where it comes in ordinal sequence, but it is second in group B2, followed by… …   Wikipedia

  • The Clerk's Tale — The Clerk from The Canterbury Tales The Clerk s Tale is the first tale of Group E (Fragment IV) in Geoffrey Chaucer s The Canterbury Tales. It is preceded by The Summoner s Tale and followed by The Merchant s Tale. The Clerk of Oxenford (modern… …   Wikipedia

  • The Cook's Tale — The Cook from The Canterbury Tales Chaucer presumably never finished the Cook s Tale and it breaks off after 58 lines, although some scholars argue that Chaucer instead deliberately left the tale unfinished.[1] The story starts telling of an… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.