Evaluate Dryden's treatment of Chaucer in the Preface of Fables Ancient and Modern.
Dryden in the Preface of this work gives his own critical evaluation of the works of Chaucer and his importance in English literature. It is clear that Dryden holds Chaucer in great esteem, calling him the "father of English poetry." Yet, before the reader dismisses everything he has to say as bias, it is clear that Dryden retains enough perspicacity to recognise some of his weaknesses:
It were an easy matter to produce some thousands of his verses which are lame for want of half a foot, and sometimes a whole one, and which no pronunciation can make otherwise.
Dryden does therefore critically evaluate the weaknesses of Chaucer, pointing out that metrically, he can be considered to be weak in the lack of precision of his verse. However, as he goes on to argue, Chaucer's great strength is in his characterisation, which is so strong that "Not a single character has escaped him" He is so competent in this area that Dryden states he has characterised in his work "the various manners and humours of teh whole English nation in his age." This, according to Dryden, is of far more value than missing the odd half-foot in his meter here and there. Dryden therefore presents a critical view of Chaucer that is not blind to his few inadequacies in his desire to praise him.