Corruption In The Church Essay, Research Paper
Chaucer lived in a time dictated by religion and religious ideas in which he uses The Canterbury Tales to show some of his views. Religion played a significant role in fourteenth-century England and also in Chaucer’s writing. His ideas of the Church are first seen in “The Prologue,” and he uses seven religious persons to show the influence of the religion in his writing. Although many of his characters appear to portray part of the corruption in the Church, he does give a small example in which one can conclude that he is speaking in praise.
The Friar, who lived off begging, appears to live a lowly existence, while Chaucer refers to the papacy in writing, “he had a special license from the Pope” (Chaucer 9.) Chaucer utilizes his opening statements of the Friar to present his character drawbacks, which can provide for a greater representation of the Church. In his description, it is shown that he will help the society “for a small fee” (Chaucer 10.) The Friar, being a religious person, uses his power to benefit for his own greed. This is one example of the corrupted Church.
It is clear that the Monk is found to be one of the most underhanded religious figures on the pilgrimage to Canterbury. Chaucer makes forceful insults in his character explication. “The Rule of good St. Benet or St. Maur/ As old and strict he tended to ignore” (Chaucer 7.) A monk is supposed to have a strong authority in the Church, but
Chaucer explains that he breaks the written laws and precedents set by people recognized as Saints and highly acclaimed people. The Monk is a lazy, disgusting man who lived a dishonest and imprudent life.
The Pardoner and Summoner appear together in “The Prologue.” They further illustrate an example of Chaucer’s awareness of a defiled Church. Chaucer provides humor to his description of the Summoner in that “he’d allow – just for a quart of wine – /Any good lad to keep a concubine” (Chaucer 20.) This means that a person who disobeys the Church without seeking repentance can easily bribe the Summoner, in that he will overlook the situation. Chaucer writes about the Pardoner that “by his flatteries and prevarication/ Made monkey of the priest and congregation” (Chaucer 22.) This is another direct insult to the Church at the time.
Although the Pardoner represents the lowly side of the Church, Chaucer balances it out with a highly appraise of the Parson. He appears into the prologue before the Pardoner and the Summoner, and he clearly is a perfect illustration of the Church, which should be followed over the other corrupt religious men. Chaucer uses the Parson to show the Church’s power and majesty over this period in England. If not for him, it could be concluded that Chaucer had no respect for the Church. However, the Parson allows him to tell tales of the Friar, Monk, Pardoner, and Summoner while affirming that he is aware of the ability of the Church to have supremacy. Chaucer writes, “He also was a learned man, a clerk/ Who truly knew Christ’s gospel and would preach it” (Chaucer 16.)
Chaucer puts a greater emphasis on the dishonest religious characters in his writing while only mentioning one ideal figure. The Parson provides an example for the ideal state that the Church should be in, while the other men represent a microcosm of the immoral and impure Church in the fourteenth-century. The Middle Ages were a religious age, and Chaucer is aware of it influences on England. Unlike most people, he knows that many of the highest religious figures were evil representations, however he uses the Parson to override the deceitful figures and show his illuminating esteem for the Church.
Chaucer,Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. New York: Penguin Books, 1951.