The Caterbury Tales Essay Research Paper When

The Caterbury Tales Essay, Research Paper

When thinking of the figures in the church, they are thought to be loyal, respectful,

giving, and dedicated. Sadly to say this, but not all figures follow that description. In

“The Canterbury Tales”, Chaucer shows the corruption of the church in the medieval

period through some of his characters, particularly through the Nun, the Monk, and

the Friar. Yet, Chaucer does show one character, the Parson, as goodness and holiness

in the church.

Nuns are member of a religious order for women, living in a convent under

vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Their orders vary in the stipulations of the

vows, some being permanent, and others only for fixed periods of time. The orders

vary in dress, purpose, and rule, but generally follow the same basic principles. The

nuns are devoted to a purely meditative life or to a life of charity, including teaching

and nursing. The head of convent is addressed by a number of different names

including abbess, prioress, and mother superior, and a nun is generally addressed as


Madam Eglantyne is not all what she is expected to be. Even though her smile

may be “very simple and coy” (Prologue, 123), she is not into the life of charity or

completely devoting herself to God. She owned little dogs and cried when one of

them died. She is zestful and is “very entertaining, pleasant, and friendly in her ways”

(Prologue, 141-142). She has rosy cheeks with a wide forehead, which in these times

is thought of a sign of beauty. She wears “a coral trinket on her arm” (Prologue, 162)

with gaudies, large praying beads, and a “golden brooch of brightest sheen” (Prologue,

164) with a graven crown saying “amor vincit omnia” (Prologue, 166) meaning Love

conquers all. Worldly possessions are not allowed for nuns to have yet she has a dog,

a trinket and a brooch. One positive point is that she does have a clean mouth and

watches what she says.

Monks have abandoned the world for religious reasons and devote their lives,

either separately or in a community, to spiritual perfection. The vows of celibacy,

poverty, and obedience under which they live, are termed the religious counsels. A

person bound by such vows is known as a religious.

Chaucer’s Monk’s sport was hunting. “The Rule of good Saint Benet or Saint

Maur” (Prologue, 177) says “hunters are not holy men” (Prologue, 182). He does not

keep to his studies, but instead would rather be doing labor. In addition, he holds

worldly possessions, such as his “wrought-gold cunningly fashioned pin” (Prologue,

200), which shows that he has money.

Friars differ from monks, in that the monk was attached to a specific community

within which he led a withdrawn life, having no direct contact with the secular world.

Friars, on the other hand, belonged to no particular monastic house, but to a general

order and worked as an individual in the non-religious world. Thus, friars and monks

are not on synonymous terms.

Friars are members of certain religious orders who practice the principles of

monastic life and devote themselves to the service of humanity in the secular world.

Originally, their rules forbid holding either community or personal property. The

resulting dependence of friars on voluntary contributions in order to live, caused them

to be known as mendicant orders.

Charging people to hear their confessions is completely ridiculous. People

come to them for help, and in this case, the Friar is selfish and can only think about

riches. The Friar dresses like a pope, or a doctor would have in those days. He carries

around a pocket knife. What would he need that for? He pushes away the sick and

beggars. He has a beautiful voice and is married. Also, he is believed to be playful

and may sleep around with other women.

The Parson is known as “a holy-minded man of good renown” (Prologue, 487).

He had little money, yet he gave what little he had to the poor. The Parson “truly

knew Christ’s gospel and would preach it” (Prologue, 491). “Never disdainful, never

to proud or fine, but was discreet in teaching and benign.” (Prologue, 525-526) He

was the model of what a figure in the church should be like.

The church figures of medieval times may have been doing wrong and been

selfish. But at least there is some that did good, such as the Parsons. He is the role

model to be followed, not the Nun, Monk, or the Friar. Chaucer shows how the

church was in Medieval times in his Prologue of “The Canterbury Tales.”


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