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The Use of Physiognomy in Chaucers Canterbury Tales Chaucers Canterbury Tales is rich with literary devices that allow a reader to draw conclusions about its pilgrims and their characters Physical descriptions were very important to the portrayal of a character which can be seen in Chaucers extensive use of the science of physiognomy Physiognomy was a kind of science that allowed the reader to judge moral character and temperament of a person based upon his outward appearance or anatomy Chaucer uses physiognomy most frequently in the General Prologue to his Canterbury Tales when introducing the pilgrims in the group The most exaggerated descriptions are those of the peasants or lower class pilgrims namely the Miller Although the Chaucer uses physiognomy most prevalently with the Miller this science is found in nearly every description of every character The Millers portrait is relatively short but the majority of it is devoted to describing his physical features An excellent example of Chaucers use of physiognomy begins at line 554 of the General Prologue His beerd as any sowe or fox was reed And therto brood as though it were a spade Upon the cop right of his nose he hade A werte and theron stood a tuft of heres Rede as the bristles of a sowes eres His nosethirles blake were and wide A swerd and a bokeler bar he by his side His mouth as greet was as a greet furnais 554-561 Translated literally Chaucer was saying that the Millers beard was a red as a fox or a sow and as broad as a spade The Miller had a wart right on the tip of his nose and on the tip of that wart grew a tuft of hair that was as red as his beard His nostrils were large and wide almost like black holes The Miller carried a sword and a shield by his side and his mouth was large like
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