Geoffrey Chaucer's View On Religion In Medieval Europe

1239 words - 5 pages

Religion in England during the fourteenth century was a dominant part of society and people's lives. Through The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, people can try to comprehend what the people of England were like and how they lived their daily lives. Now is where the corruption and foul people of the church come in to play in The Canterbury Tales there are many religious characters: Monk, Friar, Pardoner, Nun, Prioress - the list continues on. Chaucer tells readers about the characters and how they live corrupt, lavish, extravagant, fraudulent lifestyles. The vast majority of clergy members, according to Chaucer, were corrupt and untrue to their vows.The first of these characters is the Monk; a man who one must remember has vowed to lead a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. It can immediately be seen that Chaucer is not partial to the Church and the clergy. The first two lines set the scene for the portrait; Chaucer starts by telling the reader that the Monk outshines all other monks "a fair for the maistrie" (165), this at first appears complimentary, though when one reads on one discovers that this monk outshines the other monks in his negligence of his duty to God. This "exceptional" monk is in fact a gluttonous, self-centered man, who would rather concentrate on hunting, for he "loved venerie" (166), and increasing his chances of a career promotion. He also appears to contradict all of the aforesaid vows, for example his 'venerie' is not only hunting, an indulgent pursuit of a man certainly not living in poverty and obedience, but it is also an image of wealth. Chaucer tells us that this monk is the owner of a fine horse and when he is riding passers-by can hear the chapel bells and the bells on the horse's bridle equally loudly, yet the Monk is infatuated with his hunting and is oblivious to the 'chapel belle' which calls him to prayer.The second character is the Friar; whom, like the Monk Chaucer attacks for his misuse of power, his manipulation of the vulnerable and his sexual promiscuity. Chaucer opens the portrait by getting to the point, saying that the Friar was "wanton and a merie" (208), automatically targeting the disordered behavior and frivolous nature of the Friar. Chaucer attacks him, saying that there is no friar in any of the four religious orders that can speak in such an obsequious nature "So much of sociability and elegant speech" (211). Chaucer immediately exposes the Friars sexual promiscuity, depicting how he used to exploit young girls, by seducing them and then paying them off in marriage. This is immediately followed by the Friar being described as being "Unto his order he was a noble post" (214) this is Chaucer ironically saying that in being an honored member, the order itself must be deeply rooted in this sexual promiscuity. The Friar is also is well acquainted with the franklins and worthy women of his territory, but he felt it beneath him to fraternize with other beggars, lepers, and the "poor trash"...

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