Essay On Human Nature And The Canterbury Tales

1586 words - 6 pages

Human Nature and The Canterbury Tales  

    When Geoffrey Chaucer undertook the writing of The Canterbury Tales, he had a long road ahead of him. He intended to tell two stories from each of thirty pilgrims on the way to Canterbury, and then two more from each pilgrim on the way back from Canterbury. Of these, he completed only twenty-four. However, in these tales, Chaucer depicts both the pilgrims and their stories with striking realism. In "The Nun's Priest's Tale," "The Canon's Yeoman's Tale," "The Friar's Tale," "The Reeve's Tale," and "The Cleric's Tale," Chaucer demonstrates his remarkable insight into human nature. By comparing and contrasting these tales, one can see the universality of human nature as shown by Chaucer.

One human trait apparent in these selections is greed. Avarice drives the hearts of many men, whether they may be a common miller or a summoner or a supposedly religious canon, and Chaucer was aware of this. In the tales which contain these three characters, Chaucer depicts the greed of these characters. The Reeve tells his fellow pilgrims in his tale of a miller who "was a thief ... of corn and meal, and sly at that; his habit was to steal" (Chaucer 125). The summoner in "The Friar's Tale" "drew large profits to himself thereby," and as the devil observes of him in this tale, "You're out for wealth, acquired no matter how" (Chaucer 312, 315). The canon in Part 1 of "The Canon's Yeoman's Tale," as well as the Yeoman himself, had been driven by the goal of converting base metals into gold, and "though we never realized the wished conclusion we still went on raving in our illusion" (Chaucer 478). The second canon of which the Yeoman speaks is many times worse than his own canon and master, using his trickery not merely in pursuit of making gold but also of stealing it. The Yeoman explains that this greed, "the single minded pursuit of a trivial object can destroy a man," as it did to himself and his master (Whittock 262). But the second canon is well beyond this point. "In all this world he has no peer for falsehood;" so selfish is he that he "infects" whole towns and robs them; so horrible is his greed that he can only compare with the traitor Judas who betrayed Christ (Whittock 270).

However bad a picture the Yeoman paints of this canon, the Friar creates this canon's near-equal in his own tale. This time the character is a summoner. The summoner is unswerving in his greed even in the face of the devil, and as the Dictionary of Literary Biography says, "[he] tells the devil he may be good at what he does in his neck of the woods, but if he wants to see how it is done, he should watch the summoner at work" (140). The devil of course does watch, and because the summoner will not repent for his lies and stealing, the devil proceeds to carry him off to Hell.

Condemnation does not come in such a dramatic fashion for the miller in "The Reeve's Tale." His trickery against the clerks is repaid by the clerks'...

Find Another Essay On Essay on Human Nature and The Canterbury Tales

Essay on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Greed in the Pardoner’s Tale

1334 words - 5 pages York:    Longman Inc., 1984 Hussey, S. S.    “The Canterbury Tales II.” Chaucer: An Introduction.  New York: Methuen & Co., 1981 Pichaske, David R.    “Pardoner’s Tale.” The Movement of the Canterbury Tales: Chaucer’s Literary Pilgrimage.  New York:  Norwood Editions, 1977 Rossignol, Rosalyn.    “The Pardoner’s Tale.”  Chaucer A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Works.   New York:  Facts On File, Inc., 1999

Essay on Verbal and Situational Irony in The Pardoner’s Tale of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

755 words - 3 pages very same vice that he lives by, as he proclaims “avarice is the theme that I employ in all my sermons, to make the people free in giving pennies—especially to me”.  Thus, covetousness is both the substance of his sermons as well as the mechanism upon which he thrives. He clearly states that repentance is not the central aim of his preaching, by mentioning “my mind is fixed on what I stand to win and not upon correcting sin”. Rather, his

Literary Essay: Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

1681 words - 7 pages regular jobs (or not) and have problems and not always face them, or leave gracefully. In the general prologue to The Canterbury Tales were seen the hierarchical barriers being broken by joining representatives of various strata on a pilgrimage. For this reason The Cook, The Squire and The Manciple were chosen. The first character is The Cook, where whose description begins with a rather daily language, but never quite approaching this informality

Analyzing and Comparing The Canterbury Tales

816 words - 3 pages In the Canterbury Tales , Chaucer reflects his views on society and the values he holds through his representation of his characters in the general prologue and in each of their tales. Chaucer beautifully portrays the values of poverty, chastity, obedience, chivalry and true love. How Chaucer uses the group of people to express and portray the image of what 12th century English society looked like, and how the society was back then .In the

Corruption and Greed in The Canterbury Tales

1044 words - 4 pages The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is a collection of stories by a group of pilgrims who are heading to Canterbury Cathedral. In this book, the pardoner and the reeve show antipodal characters in many ways. The pardoner is beautiful blonde hair man who is being loved by everyone. However he is very corrupted and smart and sells fake religious stuff to people saying very good compliment. On the other hand, the reeve is very serious and

Compare and contrast: The Canterbury Tales

3366 words - 13 pages mirror of The Knight's Tale. The similarities and differences take on a different meaning in The Miller's Tale to that previously delivered by the Knight. Even though they may be compared and contrasted in many different ways, they each hold the capacity to stand on their own.WORKS CITEDBurrow, J. A. "The Canterbury Tales I: Romance." The Cambridge Chaucer Companion. Ed. Piero Boitani and Jill Mann. Great Britain: Cambridge UP, 1986. 109-124Cooper

Essay on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Evil Exposed in The Pardoner's Tale

1211 words - 5 pages seems to lose its validity.  In Chaucer's famous work The Canterbury Tales, he points out many inherent flaws of human nature, all of which still apply today.  Many things have changed since the fourteenth century, but humanity's ability to act foolish is not one of them.  Perhaps the best example of this is illustrated in "The Pardoner's Tale."  His account of three rioters who set out to conquer Death and instead deliver it

Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

929 words - 4 pages Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer comments on moral corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. He criticizes many high-ranking members of the Church and describes a lack of morality in medieval society; yet in the “Retraction,” Chaucer recants much of his work and pledges to be true to Christianity. Seemingly opposite views exist within the “Retraction” and The Canterbury Tales. However, this

The Canterbury Tales

710 words - 3 pages The Canterbury Tales “The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales” were told during a pilgrimage journey from London to the shrine of the martyr St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. This was approximately 70 miles to the southeast. These Tales were told by a group of 29 pilgrims, and a Host who met up with them at the Tabard Inn. They left the Inn on the morning of April, 11. The Nun’s Priest Tale was the first story actually told

The Canterbury Tales

1178 words - 5 pages Essay on the middle ages The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer Explore the use Chaucer makes of parody by referring to at least two tales. Chaucer’s book “The Canterbury Tales” presents a frame story written at the end of the 14th century that is set through a group of pilgrims participation in a story-telling contest that they make up to entertain each other while they travel to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Because of

The Canterbury Tales

1237 words - 5 pages to let his new wife make her own choices, the knight is rewarded with a beautiful, young, and faithful wife. In "The Nun's Priest's Tale" it states: "All things are written for our learning" and these four Canterbury Tales teach lessons to the reader. The stories are interesting, entertaining, and universal because Chaucer understands human nature. His tales keep the modern reader interested because the human foibles explored

Similar Essays

Chaucer's Outlook On Human Nature Based On Observations In "The Canterbury Tales".

688 words - 3 pages of people while working in the royal courts. His entire life was as a civil servant and he had ample time to make thorough observations of humans and their nature.After reading just the Prologue, it is clear that Chaucer had a grim take on human nature. Nearly every character described has some sort of flaw. The most popular one was avarice. Even the characters that are expected to be honorable, such as the Doctor and the Summoner, are spoiled by

The Carnivalesque Nature Of The Canterbury Tales

3090 words - 12 pages popular during his time and have remained so ever since. The Canterbury Tales, a group of tales packed within a framing narrative, are widely studied and adapted today reinforcing Chaucer’s enduring talent to produce written works which so enduringly grasp the corages of human nature. One of the many things about The Canterbury Tales that makes it so readable today, hundreds of years later, is Chaucer’s utilization of various familiar genres

Comparing Fortune And Nature In Canterbury Tales And As You Like It

820 words - 3 pages an extended dialogue between Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It. Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales also provide many examples of Fortune and Nature's combinations in human affairs. His Pardoner's Tale, Miller's Tale, and Wife of Bath's Tale all depend on the effects of these two metaphysical forces.          The Host wails that "The yiftes of Fortune and of Nature / Been cause of deeth to many a creature." (Pardoner's Tale, ll. 9-10

Title: Human Imperfection, Written From The Book: "Canterbury Tales" By Geoffrey Chaucer, Assignment: Write An Essay That Analyzes Chaucer's Intent In His Work.

588 words - 2 pages the tales, Chaucer reveals his personal beliefs about relying on social institutions verses God's will. Chaucer obviously believes in obeying the will of God, while he quickly reveals the flaws in social institutions. The comparison of the miller's and pardoner's tales suggests that Chaucer has no faith in man-made institutions and human imperfection; Chaucer only trusts God himself.