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Charity In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Essay

827 words - 3 pages

In the 'General Prologue,' Chaucer presents an array of characters from the 1400's in order to paint portraits of human dishonesty and stupidity as well as virtue. Out of these twenty-nine character portraits three of them are especially interesting because they deal with charity. Charity during the 1400's, was a virtue of both religious and human traits. One character, the Parson, exemplifies Chaucer's idea of charity, and two characters, Prioress, and Friar, to satirize the idea of charity and show that they are using charity for either devious reasons or out of convention or habit.According to the definition from the Webster's dictionary, charity means giving to the needy and helping the poor. In Chaucer's time, however, charity meant much more. It included a love of G-d and doing the will of G-d as well as the kind of person one is. Thus Charity had two parts, one human, the other divine. Two parts that mixed in different portions depending on a person. Charity was a human virtue that the Church encouraged. People believed that if one does something good, he will be rewarded by G-d. Many people did meaningful, charitable things out the goodness of their hearts, but others had done it for other reasons. Those reasons included making money from people's suffering and giving to charity because someone told them to do so, rather than from the goodness of their hearts or to ease the suffering of others. Chaucer plays off both of these parts of charity in his portraits to show how they can be combined differently in different people and to distinguish 'true' charity from 'false' charity.Parson exemplifies Chaucer's idea of true charity. Even though Parson does not have any money, he considers himself rich spiritually. Going around the village, he teaches the poor and those who can't go to church about what G-d is and how to be a religious person. He gives more than he receives. In fact, he avoids preaching to the rich and well-to-do because he prefers going to the humble and poor, who truly need his help and G-d. He doesn'trun to London to earn easy breadBy singing masses for the wealthy dead,Or find some Brotherhood and get enrolled.He stayed at home and watched over his foldSo that no wolf should make the sheep miscarry. (p.16)Parson is seen as an ideal priest, and his actions describe the real meaning of what charity is. He is 'virtuous,' 'Never contemptuous' toward...

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