Chaucer Essay, Research Paper
1,216 Words In the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Chaucer effectively uses satirization throughout the tales to address various moral issues. In one such case, Chaucer singles out three religious figures–the Noone, the Monk and the Frere–and uses satirization to depict the lack of ethics among the three. By doing so, we, as the readers, can see more clearly Chaucer’s view of what is right or wrong and what is morally and ethically acceptable and unacceptable pertaining to all despite the social status one may attain. Early in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer introduces us to the Noone (Nun), a Prioress named Madame Eglantine, who prefers to speak French rather than the language of her origin. “Ther was also a Noone, a Prioress, That of hir smiling was ful simple and coy, Hir gretteste oothe was but by sainte Loy! And she was cleped Madame Eglantine Ful wel she soong the service divine, Entuned in hir nose ful semely And Frenssh of Paris was to hire unknowe” (page 84; lines 118-126) The Noone is a divine example of how unethical it is for a member of the clergy to be concerned with social status and interests not concerning the church. The Noone is a woman who treats animals better than she would treat a poor peasant standing outside the church. “She was so charitable and so pitous, She wolde weepe if that she saw a mous, Caught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde. Of smale hounes hadde she that she fedde, With rosted flessh, or milk and wastelbreed, But sore wepte she if oon of hem were deed” (page 84; lines 143-147) She tries to imitate the ways of members of the royal court when she should be trying and succeeding to imitate the ways of Jesus Christ and God her father. Preer, 2 “Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar A paire of bedes, gauded all with greene, And theron heeng a brooch of gold ful sheene, On which ther was first written a crowned A, And after, Amor Vincit omnia.” (pages 84-85; lines 158-162) If she were a true Nun, she would be staying true to her vow of marriage to God and she would not have any other form of love in her heart. But, wearing an expensive gold broach with “Amor Vincit Omnia”, translated as “Love conquers all”, shows that she has another kind of love in her heart, which is, therefore, unethical in accordance with her clerical standards. The next religious figure that Chaucer characterizes, to satirize unethical practices by a religious figure, is the Monk. Technically, a monk is a man that lives in a monastery, fulfills certain church duties and has no worldly possessions. In the Canterbury Tales, the Monk is a supervisor of land holdings of the monastery. Contradictory to his clerical obligation, the Monk is “a manly man” (page 85; line 167) who enjoys the finer things in life, disregarding the standards and rules for a monk. “The rule of Saint Maure or of Saint Beneit, By cause that it was old and somdeel strait–This ilke Monk leet old thinges pace, and heeld after the newe world the space. He yaf nought of that text a pulled hen that saith that hunteres been nought holy men” (page 85; lines 173-178) In his opinion, the Monk thinks that he should not have to abide by the rules, doing manual labor and studying the religious texts all day like his fellow brethren. He would rather go out hunting with his fine horses and greyhounds, pursing his true passion. “And I saide his opinion was good: What sholde he studye and make himselven wood upon a book in cloistre alway to poure, or swinke with his handes and laboure, as Austin bit? How shal the world be served? Lat Austin have his swink to him reserved!” (page 85, lines 184-188) Dressed in fur lined garments and supple boots, the Monk is in sharp contrast to the ideal monk. Preer, 3 Chaucer’s characterization and satirization of the Monk is definitely a shining example of how unethical people can be, regardless of their social status. The final religious figure satirized by Chaucer in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, is the Frere (Friar). In a traditional sense, a friar is a member of a religious order who spends his life begging and depends on the money gained from begging for survival. In our tale, the Frere is assigned to a certain area where he has exclusive begging rights. Ironically, the area that he is assigned to is the upper class section of his town, that includes various bars and numerous widows’ homes. “Ful wel biloved and familier was he with frankelains over al in his contree, and with worthy wommen of the town–for he hadde power of confessioun, as said himself, more than a curat, for of his ordre he was licenciat ful swetely herde he confessioun” (page 86; lines 215-221) Having the power to hear confessions, the Frere uses his power in a highly unethical way. In return for a sizable donation, the Frere gives out light penances, especially to women. “He was an esy man to yive penaunce ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce” (page 86; lines 223-224) Instead of trying to help his confessors to right their wrongs, he uses their weaknesses to make a profit for himself. The Frere is a merry man who enjoys playing his fiddle and singing in the bars and taverns socializing. When in reality, he should be out helping the poor and the sick people in his area, to fulfill his duties as a member of the clergy. “He knew the tavernes wel in every town, and every hostiler and tappestere, bet than a lazar or a beggestere. For unto swich a worthy man as he accorded nat, as by his facultee, to have with sike lazars aquaintaunce: It is nat haneste, it may nought avauce, for to delen with no swich poraile, but al with rich and selleres of vitaile; and over al ther as profit sholde arise, curteis he was, a lowely of servise. Preer, 4 Another thing, that Chaucer points out, is the fact that the Frere is quite the ladies man and thoroughly enjoys flirting with the widows in his area. “His tipit was ay farsed ful of knives and pinnes, for to yiven faire wives” (page 86; lines 234-235) Once again, Chaucer is highly effective with his satirization and depiction of this most unethical and outright wrong member of the clergy, who in turn, should be the one most concerned about helping others and fulfilling his obligation to the Church. Geoffrey Chaucer’s depiction of characters in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is remarkable. Through the use of satirization, Chaucer is highly effective in showing how unethical and immoral certain members of the clergy are, despite their elevated class status. From just the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, we as the readers, are able to see clearly what Chaucer views as right or wrong and what is morally and ethically acceptable and unacceptable despite the social status one may attain. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.