Irony and humor, and indeed ironic humor, often appear side-by-side in “The General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer. Examples include the following:
- The claim that the prioress never let a morsel of meat fall from her lips – which on the one hand suggests her obsessive attention to good manners while on the other hand suggesting that she is gluttonous (128).
- The reference to the prioress’s “conscience” (142), followed ironically by her somewhat comic concern for mice caught in traps (rather than for poor, sick, or otherwise needy people).
- The delicate (but humorous) observation that the prioress was not “undergrowe” (i.e., undergrown) – a polite way of stating that she is fat (and thus, symbolically, attached to the world and the flesh).
- The comic depiction of the monk, who has so many bells attached to his horse that when he rides his bridle can he heard jingling
. . . in a whistling wind as clere
And eek [i.e., also] as loude as dooth the chapel belle ....
(The entire section contains 578 words.)