Canterbury Tales vs Don Quixote: Compare & Contrast
Satire refers to the use of a biting literary tool by writers in books, essays, poems, and other forms of literary works to communicate a certain message with the ultimate objective being to encourage positive behavior. Both Geoffrey Chaucer and Miguel de Cervantes use sarcasm and ridicule liberally and in an expert manner in their literal works to attack the vices he witnessed during his time. Most of the pilgrims presented by the authors are satirized. In some sections of both The Canterbury Tales and Don Quixote, the authors have used satire in a more subtle manner.
Satire in the Canterbury Tales
Chaucer’s use of satire is evident in the characters’ names and their behavior and the estates within which the characters reside. The first readily evident incident of satire is in the character of The Knight. The author portrays a knight as a real person. The realistic nature pursued by the author is not limited to the positive and perfect attributes of the knights. Instead, the author succeeds in portraying a knight as a person with significant flows the makes them fall short of the standards set for knights in the society at the time. Chaucer used creativity to portray Knights as people with less honorable qualities (Puchner, Conklin, and Denecke 665).
Chaucer portrays Knights as people who follow the expected codes of chivalry; participate in duels and battles in which they win or fail honorably, and show lots of grace in courtly love. For example, he presents both Arcita and Palamon as the perfect Knights. He, however, betrays this position towards the end of the tale because we see that none of the nights is recognized as the clear winner. They, therefore, leave very unhappy. Through this gesture, the author communicates to us the silliness in some of the chivalries embraced by society. The irony in this story is common in other tales in the sense that the ideas presented in each tale satirically reflected back to the character (Puchner, Conklin, and Denecke 664).
Satire in the Don Quixote
Reading Don Quixote makes one develop the impression that one of the objectives the author had when he wrote the book to satirize the chivalrous romantic tales used during his days. It’s evident that Cervantes was determined to communicate a message that most of the traditions held by the community at the time were unrealistic and did not represent any real period in the past or the future. His journey to achieve satire in his book involved the use of incongruity, exaggeration, verbal irony an parody, which he extended to both humans and institutions of his time (Puchner, Conklin, and Denecke 393).
Throughout the book, there are numerous scenes where Cervantes imitates the chivalric romance of his time, albeit in an exaggerated manner. For example, when he says that Quixote read so many romances to the extent that his brain dried up, it is evident that the author is satirical of how Quixote behaved in comparison to what was expected of him (Puchner, Conklin and Denecke 396).
Cervantes also uses plenty of irony in his book where he said one thing when he meant another. One clear incident where irony is employed as part of the satirical composition is when he refers to a village curate as a learned man. He goes ahead to support the idea the village curate is ‘learned’ by stating that he went to an institution known as Siguenza. At this point, Cervantes’s tone is no doubt sarcastic because there is no way in the real world where a person who attended such a low-class institution would be referred to as “learned” especially when graduates from other institutions are present (Puchner, Conklin and Denecke 399).
Puchner, Martin, Suzanne Conklin A., Wiebke Denecke. Norton Anthology of World Literature. NY: Norton & Company. 2012. Print.