In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer uses a number of important rhetorical devices such as imagery, symbolism, allegory, satire, setting, genre synthesis, etc. Chaucer’s book opens with the General Prologue, in which the writer describes the appearance of each of the characters. While describing various people, the author makes allusions to philosophers and mythical characters. The dynamic and imaginatively constructed plot gives Chaucer the opportunity to use numerous genres of medieval literature. The writer’s innovation lies in the synthesis of genres within a single work. In The Canterbury Tales, the ironic voice the author, Chaucer’s pilgrim and the narrator allows the reader to learn several points of view on an event or person. The setting of the book is England: a tavern and various places on pilgrimage from London to Canterbury in the 14th century.
The Canterbury Tales contains numerous examples of hyperboles, similes and metaphors both in the prologue and in each tale. Chaucer also uses personifications and allusions throughout the book. Satire and irony help the writer to make the tales even more enjoyable read and at the same time to ridicule the drawbacks of the society that he depicts. Through personification, Chaucer endows natural phenomena and not human things with human qualities (e.g., personification of Zephyrus with sweet breath). Alliteration helps the writer to play with the rhythm of the stories and creates a poetic feel through using the same starting sound in a sentence.
Chaucer makes use of epistrophe while varying between simple rhymes and complex verse. Finally, The Canterbury Tales is filled with vivid imagery and symbolism. Situational irony can be found in the Friar’s tale, the Pardoner’s Tale, and the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, etc. Numerous literary devices make Chaucer’s book truly engaging and enjoyable to the readers.