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.”