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Paper For 10 A

1175 words - 5 pages

Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem, The General Prologue, presents a character whom is a Prioresse. Because of the culture during the medieval times the description of the Prioresse that is given is interestingly contradicting. The juxtaposition that exists throughout the entire description of the Prioresse builds a tone of doubt. While it is expected that the Prioresse be pious and fully devoted to the monastery the text doesn’t prove her loyalty, in fact, it discredits it. Although the Prioresse’s portrayal in the text is full of delicacy and well-mannered behavior, the juxtaposition following the delicate description nulls her goodness. This contradiction exposes the Prioresse’s true nature which ...view middle of the document...

The next lines say that she sings, speaks French and eats s
Neatly. These three actions at first glance might still seem well-mannered but in fact are unnatural. The text says that she “entuned in her nose ful seemly” she is singing decently but is doing so through her nose illustrating the extra effort needed to sing appropriately. Next, she obtained her French skills from “Stratford at the Bowe” (124) a school that , as the footnotes clarify, is not up to Parisian standard. Lastly, the text claims that no drop is spilled when she eats. There is no exception, nothing falls, not even a drop. This again creates an unnatural sense to her behavior although it is perceived and described repeatedly as decent.
The abnormal sense is soon sexualized when the text begins to excessively describe the nun through body parts. This lasts during most of her description. The following body parts are mentioned at least once: breast, upper-lip, nose, mouth, fore-head, and arm. At times, the descriptions seem perverse such as when the text says that “no drope ne fille upon hir brest” (131). Here the text illustrates an image that zooms right into the nun’s chest. This is highly contradicting and questionable since purity was a quality highly valued and needed from religious figures. Later in the poem her lips are described as “softe and reed” again sensualizing the Prioresse. Her eyes are described as gray as glass (152) suggesting the fakeness the Prioresse’s holds in her eyes, similar to a doll, lifeless. It is also interesting to note that all the body parts examined are waist up, the bottom half of her body is not mentioned at all. This can be a subtle sign representing the lack of agency and mobility she has on a metaphorical level. Although she is described performing actions, none of them emphasize her ability to walk and move but instead involve her hands projecting her ability to serve and give, but not move.
The Prioresse’s courtly behavior is further proved to be only an act through the multiple mentions of her strong effort. The text says, “Ful seemly after hir mete she raughte” (136). Here the word mete can hold two meanings, meat is the assumed since the previous line is talking about her delicacy when eating but the other meaning can be goal. The second meaning makes more sense when paired with the next word, reached. Here the contrast doesn’t go from one line to...

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