The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer uses Canterbury Tales to describe different professionals and their perceived stereotypes. Skipper is one of the many characters who narrate their tales as the pilgrimage journey progresses. The pilgrimage journey brings together people working in different industries. Therefore, it presents a perfect opportunity for the author to expound on a wide range of careers. However, Chaucer’s description of Skipper gives the impression that the author does not care much about Skipper and has little admiration of shipmen.
Chaucer paints the image of Skipper as a dirty and disrespectful person. Chaucer (2018) in line 400 writes, “Of nice conscience, took him no heed”. Therefore, Chaucer is implying that Skipper paid little regard to cleanliness. Further, it is established that Skipper drinks the merchant’s wine while he is fast asleep. As a result of his actions, it is easy to discern the disrespect that is associated with shipmen. Additionally, Skipper publicly narrates how the monk slept with the merchants’ wife. In so doing, Skipper shows disrespect towards his employer by narrating the sex ordeal. It is generally believed that good professionalism involves showing diligence towards work and upholding respect for the bosses. However, Skipper in this case does not show any respect to his superior. Skipper’s actions and behavior are a typical stereotype synonymous with shipmen.
Additionally, Chaucer paints the image of Skipper as an ardent and vicious fighter. Lines 401-402 states, “If that he fought and had the higher hand, by water he sent them home to every land (he drowned his prisoners)” (Chaucer, 2018). His actions are a clear indication of a ruthless fighter who is fearless and ready to suppress and kill his challengers at any time. In the beginning, Chaucer has painted a clear picture of the Skipper as a courageous shipman who is prepared to attack and pounce on anyone who challenges his authority. Lines 403-405 states the following about the shipman, “He rode upon a rouncy (hack), as he couth, all in a gown of falding (coarse cloth) to the knee.
A dagger hanging by a lace had he about his neck under his arm adown; the hot summer had made his hue all brown” (Chaucer, 2018). From this narration, it is evident that Skipper is adequately armed and ready to face off any hostility that might come his way at any given time. His proper preparation for war explains why Skipper can suppress and overcome any threat posed to him. Skippers’ perfect preparation for a fight is a trademark that is commonly associated with shipmen that have to travel far and wide in risk waters. Sailing is not a profession for the faint-hearted and as such, shipmen are brave people who must be willing and ready to face off any threat that might be posed to them in the course of their sailing. Skipper can easily drown his challengers with ease at anytime.
In conclusion, Chaucer uses the character Skipper to expound on the known stereotypes about professional shipmen. According to Chaucer, shipmen are generally disorganized, chaotic, and dirty but fierce fighters who are equal to the challenge whenever they are faced with any challenge. Chaucer successfully uses Skipper to expound on the common stereotypes associated with shipmen. From his depiction of shipmen, it is evident that he has a dislike for professionals in the sailing industry.
Chaucer, G. (2018). The Canterbury Tales: Seventeen tales and the general prologue (Norton Critical Editions). WW Norton & Company.