Pride Versus Love Essay Research Paper All

Pride Versus Love Essay, Research Paper

All Things Are Subject to Love:

Pride Versus Love

In the description of the Prioress found in the prologue of The Canterbury

Tales, Chaucer depicts this woman as one who would appear to on-lookers as

being mannerly, becoming, and pleasant. The phrase where Chaucer wrote “She

was a great delight, and always tried, To imitate court ways, and had her

pride” would indicate that not only did the Prioress place a great deal of

importance on her outward appearance but that she also took pride in it as

well. (1, 1174) This might lead the reader to consider that Chaucer is

creating a possibility within the prologue that the Prioress might practice

her religion in a hypocritical fashion. The tale of the Prioress begins

with her praying in such an outlandish manner that it also leaves the

indication of being for show rather than for true devoted worship and praise

directed to God. (2, 186-187)

From the inscription “All things are subject to love” found upon her brooch

to her sympathetic feelings concerning the lowliest of creatures, Chaucer

defines the Prioress inwardly as one who based the true measure of

Christianity upon love and good deeds done to others in need. (1, 1175) An

emphasis is made in the prologue concerning the fact that the Prioress is

only mentioned to hold tender, compassionate feelings for defenseless

creatures. “As for charity and tender feelings, She melted at whatever was

piteous.” Therefore, it could be concluded that while the Prioress is

concerned with helpless creatures, she has little or no concern for those in

society who would be her equals. (Chaucer 1, 1174) However, it is possible

that by her actions and words the Prioress is still trying to display her

great compassion towards those lower than her and thus is doing it for

self-glory and satisfaction. Chaucer in some ways leaves the reader to make

the final judgment concerning the intent of the Prioress. Throughout his

description and the tale it can be inferred that Chaucer felt it was

important for one who professed Christianity to not only worship in deed but

also in heart as well.

Despite any possible dispute about whether or not the Prioress is inspired

to good deeds out of pride or out of pure intent of the heart, the story she

tells reinstates the concept of “All things are subject to love” and the

idea that she is sympathetic to lowly creatures. Chaucer begins by using a

child who lives with only his widow mother and attends a nearby Catholic

school as the main character. Like the animals the Prioress feels pity for

in the prologue, this boy also probably would be considered a “lowly

creature.” In the prologue Chaucer wrote ” She would weep if she but came

upon a mouse Caught in a trap, if it were dead and bleeding.” (1, 1174)

This scenario is used somewhat as a story line for the tale because the boy

is used as the sympathetic character who dies unjustly. This poor boy was

very devoted to his faith and always eager to learn more about God so that

he could worship him better. However, he was persecuted and eventually

killed by some Jews who hated him for his religion because they considered

it to be in opposition to the Jewish religion. In some ways Chaucer

presented forth a concept that even though the Jews felt in their hearts

that they were religious and “in tune” with God, they had no happiness and

no true qualities that would indicate a real relationship with their Maker.

On the other hand, the boy was very humble in every way, truly sought to

worship his God and found happiness in praising God with a devoted heart and

voice in life and in death.

It is obvious throughout the descriptions of the various characters as well

as the tales found within The Canterbury Tales that Chaucer wants to show

how individuals involved in the church were often overcome by the appearance

of religion rather than the existence of true religious devotion. From a

“glance”, the Prioress is shown to be quite perfected in all her ways and as

a result prideful as well. At closer inspection, however, the Prioress is

given deeper qualities through her compassion for lowly creatures. It is

possible that through this compassion and feeling that she lives her life

according to the inscription “All things are subject to love.” Still, it is

unclear to determine exactly whether or not the compassion she shows is out

of pride to “show out for others” or if it indeed is inspired solely by


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