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Chaucer’s Prologue To The Canterbury Tales Essay

Dave Tagatac English III Dec. 1, 2000 Canterbury Tales Essay #1 In Geoffrey Chaucer’s Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, there was a Friar to accompany the party traveling to Canterbury. Hubert, as he was called, embodied the traits from which friars were expected to keep their distance. Chaucer is successful in using this white-necked beggar to bring to the readers mind corruption, wealth, greed, and lechery, all hypocritical and immoral characteristics for a man of the church to possess. Although he is a merry man, full of joy and “wantonness”, these are mere irrelevancies when assessing Hubert’s value of character as a friar.

Throughout Chaucer’s description of the Friar in the Prologue, Hubert’s corruption is evident. Probably the Friar’s greatest evil is suggested early in his description and mentioned several times more. When Hubert would marry a couple, he would give each “Of his young women what he could afford her.” The sexual connotation of this statement is enforced by the fact that “He kept his tippet stuffed with pins for curls, / And pocket-knives, to give to pretty girls.” Other evidence of corruption, although not as reprehensible as the defiance of celibacy, includes Hubert’s failure to befriend the “lepers, beggars, and that crew,” to whom friars were intended to be nearest. The narrator explains that their lack of money makes their friendship simply a waste of the Friar’s time.

A friar is supposed to be poor, only taking what they need to survive, and giving the rest to those impoverished souls who need it. Hubert, on the other hand, was quite wealthy. I have never known the imbibing of alcohol to be a necessity of life, and yet this friar “knew the taverns very well in every town / And every innkeeper and barmaid too.” The narrator even states outright that “his income came / To more than he laid out.” Yet another extraneous possession for a friar was the extravagant dress Hubert wore, as contrasted with the rags friars were expected to don. All of these things demonstrate how the Friar, even when obtaining more than he expected, gave very little to the poor, and kept much for himself.

This feeling is continued ” even augmented ” upon examination of Hubert’s greed. “Highly beloved and intimate was he / With Country folk within his
boundary.” As mentioned above, he associated not with the poor, “But only with the rich and victual-sellers.” Anyone from whom a profit was possible was inherently the Friar’s friend. This greed is indisputable in light of a final piece of evidence. That is that Hubert would actually pay other friars not to beg in his district. Again, these are actions to be frowned upon in any man, let alone a religiously affiliated one.

Finally, Hubert can be shown to be a leach, hanging around those from whom he can get money, and depending on them to support his opulent lifestyle. Although he had no permission to hear confession, this was one way for him to make money, and he did not hesitate to utilize it. He even targeted those who weren’t so wealthy in a never-ending quest for monetary gain: “though a widow mightn’t have a shoe / “¦ / He got her farthing from her just the same.” When people of his district had a dispute, the lecherous Friar was there. Hubert could be found taking advantage of any opportunity he could find to make money honestly, or dishonestly.

The Friar was well liked, and had a wonderful singing voice, but his contributions to society ended here. He, through his actions, has shown evidence of corruption, immoral opulence, greed to increase this wealth, and a terrible habit of leaching off others. He was considered a man of the church, but he was far from the piety the title “friar” conveys.


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