The Canterbury Tales Essay
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The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales, a masterpiece of English Literature, written by Geoffrey Chaucer, is a collection, with frequent dramatic links, of 24 tales told to pass the time during a spring pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket in Canterbury. The General Prologue introduces the pilgrims, 29 "sondry folk" gathered at the Tabard Inn in Southwark (outside of London). Chaucer decides to join them, taking some time to describe each pilgrim.
According to the Norton Anthology, "the composition of none of the tales can be accurately dated; most of them were written during the last fourteen years of Chaucer's life, although a few were probably written earlier and inserted into The Canterbury Tales" (Norton, 80).…show more content…
The Prioress, Madame Eglantine, is a character full of denial. Though she is a nun whose duties should be pledged to God, she certainly considers herself a lady first. She speaks bad French, ate and dressed very carefully, and wears a brooch that says "love conquers all." She also cares deeply for animals, bringing several along with her on the pilgrimage. Her lady-like behavior seems to stand in direct contrast to the ways of a good Nun. This is Chaucer's first criticism of religion, a theme he returns to throughout the poem.
Like the Prioress, the Monk is also an ironic characterization. The Monk loved to ride horses and hunt. He also eats well and dresses in nice clothes. He even goes so far as to say that he prefers the outdoor life, hardly a statement one would expect from one whose profession entails sitting inside and copying books.
The Friar is a bad guy. He is licensed to hear confessions and uses his position to beg for money, operating under the assumption that penance works better through payment than prayers. He also has the reputation of getting girls into "trouble," then helping to marry them to others
GRAPH The Merchant knows a good bargain when he sees it. His very smooth behavior helps hide the fact that he is really in debt.
The Clerk is soft-spoken student of the thetoric arts. When he speaks, it is with such expression that people readily listen. He is one of the most admired
Canterbury Tales - The Monk
- Length: 785 words (2.2 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Canterbury Tales: The Monk
Corruption under pretence of purity within the Catholic Church has been an ongoing issue dating
father back than anyone can remember. During the medieval times, the Catholic Church had become
widely notorious for hypocrisy, abuse of clerical power and the compromise of morality throughout.
Geoffrey Chaucer made a fine and somewhat darkly comical example of this through The Monk, from the
Canterbury Tales. The Monk is enlisting in a pilgrimage maybe for his love of riding, or to further line
his pockets while pardoning people for their sins. According to the main four orders of friars in the
Middle Ages, monks are supposed t take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The contents of this
essay clearly suggest The Monk does not particularly care for these vows and is more interested in riding
and taking money for his own indulgences.
The Monk is first introduced as "a fair for the maistrie."(Line 165), already claiming he is above
the average person’s importance. The Monk is then explained as having a deep love of riding, which is
usually a rich man’s hobby, and definitely not that of a supposed humble and simple Monk who should be
known for staying within the walls of the cloister and devoted to books and prayer. Referring to St.
Benedict’s Rule of basically praying and working, The Monk pays his rule no heed thus giving the idea of
a somewhat careless, selfish Monk. The Monk is further described as this in the following passage:
“What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood
Upon a book in cloystre alwey to pour
Or swynken with his hands and laboure
As Austin bit? How shal the world be served?
Lat Austyn have his owene swynk to hym reserved!” (Lines 184-188)
The Monk shamelessly indulged in his out-of-character hobbies such as riding by dressing richly
for it with lined sleeves, expensive gray fur and a gold pin fastened under his chin. He wore a double
breasted cloak with a Flemish beaver hat. Of course he is still an esteemed Monk, and proving that with
his infamous crowned haircut as that of a holy and worthy monk.
The Monk loved eating and dressing well, and is described as being “ful fat and in good poynt”
(Line 200) with bright eyes, a supple boots and horses in the best shape. His favourite food was a fat
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Monk Canterbury Tales Medieval Times Cloak Catholic Church Purity Geoffrey Chaucer Contents Hobby
swan as a roast and rightly described as “A Frere ther was, a wantowne and a merye” (Line 209-210)
Chaucer has much hypocrisy in his description of The Monk, most notably in the passage:
“Unto his ordre he was a noble post!
And wel beloved and famulier was he
With frankeleyns ever al in his contree” (Lines 214-216)
Although he had just been explained as being pleasure-seeking and flirtatious, he is quite a well-
respected man of the Church, but famous for forgiving the sins of people for a donation of money,
whether it be a generous amount from the rich man, or the last few coins of a starving family. Chaucer
also uses words atypical in describing a monk such as “lust” (Line 201) and “wantowne” (Line 207).
The Monk is known throughout the land, particularly by men and women of a higher class. This sort of
social contact was frowned upon by the Church, yet he continued to do as he wanted, all the while still
praying and walking as a man held to the Church. Nonetheless through all The Monk’s ostensibly
innocent hobbies, Chaucer is more than fair and proceeds to say The Monk is “Curteis he was and lowely
of servyse. There has no man nowher so virtuous;” (Line 250-251).
With satirical paradoxes of The Monk throughout the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer used his
characterization of The Monk to somewhat symbolize the many dimensions and moral, or immoral, fibres
of the Catholic Church. The Monk is therefore represented as being greedy, extravagant and selfish all
the while still doing his job as a devotee of God and assuring people absolution if they pay a fee of
monetary value. Although the subject of a corrupt church is a very serious subject matter, Chaucer is able
to lighten the seriousness by being non-judgemental and almost supporting of The Monk’s extravagances
and light-heartedness. The Canterbury Tales will forever be relevant because of Chaucer’s ability to
immortalize and write about issues and topics that will perpetually be characteristic of human nature.
Although styles and times change, humans are the same, and will make the same mistakes generation
through generation. Just as men have struggled with lust and desire throughout time, the Catholic Church
will be posed with instances of bribery and corruption for times to come.