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Chaucer’s Use Satire Towards The Corruptness Of The Medieval Church

850 words - 4 pages

The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales is a masterpiece of satire due to the frequent use of verbal irony and insults towards the characters and their roles in society. A major source of Irony is Chaucer’s representation of the Church. He uses the Prioress, the Monk and the Friar, who are all supposed to be holy virtuous people to represent the Church. In his writing he suggests that they are actually corrupt, break their vows and in no way model the “holiness” of Christianity.

In the middle ages Friars, Monks and Prioresses had very specific roles in society. A Friar had to follow the mendicant order while living off of charity, preaching, educating, attending to the sick and absolving people from their sin. The Prioress was the head of a group of nuns. She would have had a low social standing as she belongs to the Theocracy. Her roles included growing vegetables and grain, producing wine and honey, providing medical care for the community and being in charge of the Priories. Lastly, the Monk’s role was to remain in his cloister and study religious texts; “And that a monk uncloistered is a mere/ Fish out of water, flapping on the pier…”(177-178). All of these people were supposed to model holiness; they were bound to the community and had no personal possessions. They are supposed to be selfless Christians dedicated to the Church.

Due to their roles in society, the Friar, the Monk and the Prioress all take vows to which none of them remain faithful. The Friar has a charming personality, which he uses to his own advantage to exploit the poor, get charity from the rich “Natural gifts like his were hard to match. / He was the finest beggar of his batch, / And, for his begging-district payed a rent… ” (249-251), and seduce women, thus breaking his vows of chastity. The Prioress also breaches her vows, her brooch reads “Amor vincit Omnia”(160), and the translation of this from Latin to English is: “Love conquers all”. As the Prioress has a “mouth [that] was very small, but soft and red” (151), this description creates the image of a sexually attractive woman, and therefore suggests the “love” from her brooch is of a sensual reference.

As well as being Untrue to their vows, the Prioress, the Friar and the Monk are guilty of they indulgences. The Friar is described as “With threadbare habit hardly worth a dollar, / But much more like a Doctor or a Pope” (262-263), suggesting he is selfish and keeps...

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