Throughout the length of The Canterbury Tales, it is clear that Chaucer seems to both favor and somewhat demonize certain aspects of the Church. He does both in the descriptions of certain characters and the language he uses to interpret them in his own way. Characters such as the Summoner, the Pardoner, the Monk, and Prioress are all depicted as being servants or faithful to the church, thus it appears that they care more about themselves rather than the work they are doing for God himself.
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In The Prologue Chaucer first begins to introduce the setting and then he gets into the characters themselves.
At one point, he begins describing a character known as the Parson, who just so happens to be a priest. And unlike some of the other religious characters that were introduced, he actually is connected to the Church in a positive way. He is connected to his faith and he doesn’t use it for exploitation or any other manipulative means. The Parson is a very, sort of straightforward person when it comes to his parishioners. For “if gold rust, what shal iren do?” (General Prologue 502) This quote determines that if a religious figure can’t live and fulfill a holy lifestyle, then how can they expect just any ordinary individual to do so?
The Parson is a good example of how Chaucer views one part of the Church, but in other characters, it seems they have a negative aura surrounding them. Take the Pardoner for example. The Pardoner is described as a deceitful and manipulative man that uses any means in getting what he desires most; wealth. He acquires his wealth by telling stories to the pilgrims and making them feel how he wants them to feel, that way he’s able to cheat them out of their money. And the fact of the matter is, he doesn’t do it discreetly. No, he straight up tells the pilgrims that he is only out for their money and he uses his languages to exploit their sinfulness.
Bulles of popes and cardynales, Of patriarkes and bishopes I shewe, And in Latyn I speke a wordes fewe, To saffron with my predicacioun, And for to stire hem to devocioun. (The Pardoner’s Tale, 56-60). As per the quote provided, the Pardoner manipulating his audience in order to get them to buy his relics, which will give him the wealth that he desires. Overall, the Pardoner is a character that is can be referenced as unholy and he is a negative part of the Church.
The finish off, the Prioress can also be described as a negative part of the Church represented in The Canterbury Tales. While supposedly she is a religious figure, she is anything but and she is only out for herself, not in the name of God’s will. She carries around a string of coral beads and a pendant that reads Love Conquers All in Archaic Latin. Being a Prioress, she is expected to be carrying around a rosary but instead, the beads are considered to be a symbol of vanity. As per Chaucer’s description, “peyned hir to countrefete cheere / of court” (139-140) or in another way, she’s trying too hard to be seen in a way that she should not be seen as a religious figure. Overall, Chaucer’s views of the Church can be interpreted in different ways when analyzing the language that he uses for certain characters. In my opinion, he seems maybe indifferent. Not in love but not hating either. Per the language of The Canterbury Tales, it just seems like there are parts of the Church that should be praised and parts that should be eradicated.
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