Dante and Chaucer: The Divine Comedy and The Canterbury Tales Comparison
English literature is one of the most fascinating and interesting types of writing in the whole world. Lots of foreign masterpieces are translated into English to provide people with opportunities to enjoy these works in the international language. This is why world literature, including African, Asian, European, and American works, is usually presented in English.
Authors from different times and cultures add something new and unforgettable to the literature world and deserve to be analyzed during the literature classes. Dante Alighieri is considered to be one of the most famous Italian poets. His Divine Comedy, created in 1308, impresses plenty of readers even now.
Numerous writers used his style of writing after his death, and one of such followers was Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet, famous by The Canterbury Tales. Both Dante and Chaucer’s works have lots in common: the authors preferred to write about their journeys and describe people they met there, liked to put themselves into their works as integral parts of the plot’s development and chose the same vernacular writing style for most of their writing. This essay shall compare and contrast the stories of the authors.
Both Geoffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri wrote in the Middle Ages and were the two most famous and most celebrated writers of that period. “Both Dante and Chaucer were active in affairs of their times.” (Hetherington 179) Because of their occupations and abilities to travel and meet new people, they had excellent opportunities to use their life experiences in their works.
For example, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales general prologue talks about a group of people, whh try to find something to do during their traveling. “I had so talked with each of that presently/ I was a member of their company/ And promised to rise early the next day/ To start, as I shall show, upon our way” (Lawall 1702). Dante’s Divine Comedy, which consists of three parts, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, is about another traveling, the travel to Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, as the titles suggest it. Thus, both The Divine Comedy and The Canterbury Tales reflect medieval tradition of pilgrimage.
The main idea of both these stories is that people may change their preferences and styles of life during their traveling. New people, new places, and new emotions – this is what so important for humans to change their lives. It does not matter whether these lives are improved or wholly destroyed. Here, the primary point is the factor of change, and this is the only thing that matters.
Someone may say after a literary analysis that the writing styles of Dante and Chaucer are quite different. Well, of course, every author presents his/her vision of details in their narrations.
However, no one will argue that the vernacular style is the thing that is inherent to both of them. With the help of such language, Dante and Chaucer made their works more understandable to the public and reflected their ideas in traditional everyday speech. They both were connected to the economic sphere of life of their countries.
This is why money and language may be considered as significant analogs in their works. “The crowds, the countless, different mutilations/ had stunned my eyes and left them so confused/ they wanted to keep looking and to weep.” (Dante and Musa 335).
Another point in these both stories is the authors’ involvement in the development of the events in the story. Dante did not afraid to present himself as one of the characters in The Divine Comedy. The character of Dante speaks to several characters who present him with their own stories.
He analyzes, evaluates, and makes necessary conclusions. He is not stupid and has a lot in mind that will help to change this world. “I saw it, I’m sure, and I seem to see it still/ a body with no head that moved along/ moving no differently from all the rest.” (Dante and Musa 329) Chaucer, in his turn, is a kind of guide to the world of his stories. The Canterbury Tales is written in the vernacular and about common experiences.
He introduces each character and describes him/her from his perspective: “I told him his opinion made me glad/ Why should he study always and go mad/ mewed in his cell with only a book for neighbor?” (Chaucer and Morrison 58) However, the reader still feels the participation of the authors in both these stories. Such an author’s involvement makes a writer a bit closer to the reader so that the reader can comprehend what Dante or Chaucer wanted to say.
There are no “doubts that Chaucer read Dante’s Commedia.” (Taylor 1) It does not mean that Chaucer had no ideas to create something his own. The principal idea is his vision of the story, his desire to be a bit closer to his teacher, Dante. Not every writer can create something like The Divine Comedy, and Chaucer made a magnificent attempt and created an incredible story in Dante’s style with a variety of personal ideas and standpoints.
Writing about personal travels, using the vernacular writing style, and personal participation in the events of the story – this is what unites Dante’s and Chaucer’s works and makes both of them great masterpieces in the literature of the Middle Ages.
Chaucer, Geoffrey and Morrison, Theodore. The Portable Chaucer: Revised Edition. New York: Penguin, 1977.
Dante, Alighieri and Musa, Mark. The Divine Comedy: Inferno. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003.
Hetherington, Norriss, S. Cosmology: Historical, Literary, Philosophical, Religious, and Scientific Perspectives. Taylor & Francis, 1993.
Lawall, Sarah. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. New York: Norton, 2006.
Taylor, Karla. Chaucer Reads “The Divine Comedy.” Stanford University Press, 1989.
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