Hyperbole in The Canterbury Tales: Examples & Meaning

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

What is hyperbole? Why do writers use it?Are there any examples in Geoffrey Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tale'? Get the answers to these questions and take a look at three solid examples of hyperboles by reading on.

Hyperbole's

If I have to read one more chapter of The Canterbury Tales I am going to die. Woah. What's going on here? If you have ever made a statement like this, you have used a hyperbole. A hyperbole is an exaggeration. If we get more specific, a hyperbole is a literary tool that writers use to make their stories more interesting. The Canterbury Tales is filled with hyperboles. Before we begin, it is important to give a disclaimer, and mention that The Canterbury Tales is full of sex jokes and fart humor.

The Thunderous Fart

One example of hyperbole comes in the Miller's Tale about a man asking for a kiss at the window of a woman whom he loves. Instead of being greeted by this woman, he finds the rear end of her lover who leet fle a fart, As greet as it had been a thonder-dent. In other words her lover farted in the man's face, and it was so loud that it sounded like thunder. This is a hyperbole because no matter how much wind power the lover had, it is impossible for a fart to literally sound like thunder. The hyperbole here helps add to the humor of the situation by comparing the fart to thunder.

Rosy Cheeks

Another example of hyperbole comes in The Knight's Tale. He describes a beautiful young woman whose cheeks were red and lovely. He explains that if he compared her cheeks to a rose, ''I noot which was the fairer of hem two.'' To put it another way, he is claiming that he would not know if a rose was redder than her cheeks or if her cheeks were redder than a rose. While she may have been wearing very bright red make up, it would still be possible to compare and know which was redder. The Knight uses hyperbole here to demonstrate the extent of the woman's beauty (exemplified by her red cheeks).

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