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Chaucer uses a character's appearance consistently to tell us something about that person. For example, the Wife of Bath has wide hips, wears red stockings, and is gap-toothed, all which say something about her bold sexuality. The Clerk is thin and doesn't dress well for he spends all his money on books, showing he is not frivilous and loves learning. The prioress wears an emblem that says Amor Vincit Omnia, which means "love conquers all," and dresses much too nicely for a nun who has taken a vow of poverty and chastity. We learn that she is more concerned about her appearance and living well than she should be for her station in life, and Chaucer satirizes her by means of her appearance.
The Squire is young and has potential to be as noble as his father, the Knight. He has been trained in all the services, music, and other areas considered to be honorable. However, as a youth with rosy cheeks, short robes, and curly hair, he enjoys the ladies-- so he sleeps as little as the Nightingale.
The Monk owns many things he shouldn't-- dogs, fine horses, nice clothing. He spends a lot of time hunting and being involved in material worldly pursuits. His mantra is not to follow the Monks whose footsteps he follows in since the world is a great big place to play and he's all about it with his symbols of material wealth.
Almost every character in the Canterbury Tales is described in such a way that his/her inner nature is revealed by his/her outer appearance. Careful reading and knowledge of the time period will help you detect the hints that Chaucer is giving his reader as "just reports what he sees and hears".
chaucer uses physiognamy...popular for the time because of the influence of aristotle's texts or any psuedo aritstole text..i would look at the Miller, the Reeve, the Monk, and the Friar as well..also the narrator does not note on many character features that others notice...especially in the case of the Miller and the Reeve.. the general prologue really reveals the tension between individuals and their vocations...what does it mean to be a knight, a miller, a reeve, a monk, friar? What is the ideal? How are certain vocations recognized? Where are the boundaries between indiviudal characteristics and the characteristics of the vocations? Also, whats a husband and whats a wife...how do they relate to one another especially in terms of control? these are some very important questions when reading Canterbury Tales...ultimately people are not a species branched from their vocational genus...example Bob is not born a miller by some divine nature...instead he is a man that is a miller simply by coincidence. The narrator belives, at first, there is a divine instinct or nature in man (when he mentions nature pricketh him in hir corages) but the monk really destroys that view in the prologue...I hope this helps...
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