Geoffrey Chaucer Essay, Research Paper
In Canterbury Tales, Chaucer uses the Pardoner and the Prioress to subtlety display what he thinks of the church. The Prioress is after the attention of men. The Pardoner is after money. Chaucer shows the corruptness and hypocrisy integrated into the religious society at the time of the story. He saw the religious society as a corrupt society.
The Prioress is a nun that seems to be infatuated with how she appears romantically and physically towards males. ?She was known as Madame Eglantine.? Madame Eglantine was a French lady that was very much associated with romantics. She was very prim and proper. ?From her lips no morsel ever fell.? This could be interpreted that she is the head of her covenant and she wants to represent it well because it would be rather rude if she did have bad table manners. But I think that she was more interested in being gracious and beautiful than being a good representation of her covenant. She also wore a rosary around her arms with small coral beads and from them hung a brooch of golden sheen. The style of day in the secular world was this brooch style. This confers more that she was after worldly things and this does not go along with her supposed beliefs.
The corruption is shown through the pardoner also. The pardoner was a priest who gave out pardons for sin. In that time some it was common practice to give money for forgiveness of sin. What the pardoner was after was money, not the saving of souls or the betterment of society, money. He is supposedly a man of God yet he is extremely greedy and takes advantage of people?s sins. The Pardoner was very good at what he did. One of his tricks was almost like an Indian medicine man. He had a shoulder bone, supposedly owned by a holy Jew, he told people that if they dipped the bone in the well and one of their animals became sick ?take water from the well and wash its tongue and it is healed at once.? Also he went on to build this up even more telling his audience to ?cook the water from the well and you will lose your jealousy for your wife.? He stated that using this water would also increase your productivity in your fields. But o the last line of his speech ?provided that he bring his penny or so to make his offering? brings it back into real life. This reflects what I believe were Chaucer?s thoughts of the 14th century religious aristocracy. Their absolute want of money and they stoop to whatever level to do it.
?Chaucer seems to imply that one way of looking at the religion of this time is to suggest that it is driven by a selfish need for gain and reward? (Ashton 89). The Pardoner, and the church on whose behalf he acts, is motivated purely by financial greed. He uses a rhetorical range of tricks to manipulate his audience to induce a sense of guilt into them. The cunning and clever Pardoner then would expand on his theme, to deepen the guilt, to prepare for the real intent of his story, which was
not preach against the sins nominated at start but to persuade his listeners to part with their money. One way in which he does this is by asking his listeners if they have done something so awful that they would be scared to go to the confessional and confess it. He then states that he can ??make the people free in giving pennies-especially to me.? The Pardoner also uses visuals to help him accomplish this. He stands in the pulpit and ?I nod and peer about like a dove perched on a shed?, the dove being like Christ and making him associated with a Christ like figure. The Pardoner takes advantage again of the fact that faith mingles with superstition, and is often dependent upon visual or concrete evidence. Thus he offers a magic ?bone? to guarantee God?s strength to better they?re harvest. People would seem happy to pay anything in guarantee of a good harvest meaning no starvation for his family. The Pardoner also manipulates his audience by telling them that if they come up give an offering they will be saved from their sins. Once again everyone would be happy to have the guarantee that they saved from their sins just to pay a small fee.
The Pardoner and the Prioress reflects what Chaucer thinks about the church at the time. He thinks that it is corrupt and extremely hypocritical. The church will stop at nothing to get exactly what they want, money. And even the holy women are cannot keep their lusts under control. The Pardoner is very good at manipulating people. He plays people?s fears of going to hell off on them by telling them the only way that they can is by giving money to him for a pardon of their sins. The Pardoner nowadays could be compared to a TV evangelist. One of the guys who are asking for money and contributions and that if you do God will bless you. Yet it still works today and people
still do believe that God will bless their money because a man the TV said it would. So it is not that hard to believe that the Pardoner could dope all those people into making them give offering for the same fact of prosperity.
Ashton, Gail. Chaucer. New York: St. Martin?s Press, 1998.
Boyd, Beverly. Variorum Editions of Geoffrey Chaucer. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.
Payne, Robert O. Geoffrey Chaucer. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986.