Chaucer's Critique: Prioress and Monk in The Canterbury Tales

What do we learn about religion from studying the general prologue of The Canterbury Tales, With reference to two of the characters, the prioress and the Monk? Geoffrey Chaucer was born in 1340, his family were from London. Chaucer became a page in royal court and was educated with highly experience of people around him from the very rich to the ordinary working man helped him to write the Canterbury Tales. The Canterbury Tales is a framework story. It is about a group of pilgrims who go on a pilgrimage to Canterbury.

While at the Tabard Inn, on the night before the journey, Chaucer describes them, The Monk and the Prioress are two of the pilgrims travelling with Chaucer. Using irony, Chaser seems at first to be compliment them. This is when his character he realises he is pointing out their fault and the criticising the church. The prioress was a Nun who travelled with Chaucer to Canterbury. While in the Inn Chaucer describes her, saying, 'That of hie smylyng was ful simple and coy.

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' Chaucer also writes, 'hir gretteste ooth was by saint Loy. '

Nuns are meant to be holy, they have committed there lives to God, they are meant to follow the commandments given to Moses, not even to swear a little bit is acceptable let alone to swear at all. Chaucer also writes, 'Ful;wel she song the survace divine,' She was singing not to please God but to catch the eye of the other people in the church.

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Chaucer says that the prioress ate her meal with elegance, he said she had beautiful manners and that she was entertaining to watch, 'Mate wel y taught was she with alla,' 'Amyable of port. '

Later on in the text Chaucer comments about her beauty on a number of occasions. Nuns have to take a vow of poverty and should not have any possessions. Clearly she possesses make-up and fine clothes. God should be the Centre of her life and she should only be doing things he wants her to do. Chaucer thinks that the prioress isn't acting and behaving as she should and that she should forget about the pilgrimage to Canterbury and start to learn once again about being a nun. The Monk was according to Chaucer a fine looking man, 'Fair for the mainstrve,' This man was not just a monk but 'an outryere. '

In those days lots of irony was used and an outrider was a person who could go out of his monasteries to do work for the church. Chaucer also sats that this monk, 'lovede Venerye' and 'Ful many a deyntee hors haddle he in stable. ' The monk had taken a vow of poverty just like the prioress, so this monk shoulden't have any possessions. Chaucer also writes about his 'brydel' which was 'Gynglen in a whistynge waynge wynd. ' This monk was also drawing attention to himself while he was meant to be out doing the work of the church; he was treating this work like a holiday. This monk was fashionable and enjoyed best quality food.

'A fat swan love he best of any roast. ' Swans were very expensive, so he must have eaten this while he was out doing the work of the church. He was caring for his freedom, not commitment while he should have been caring for the poor not indulging himself. Although Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales about 600 years ago, it is still valid today. The nun and the Monk speak for themselves, they say that human nature doesn't change and that some people will always be greedy and selficha dns some people will be nice and kind, this was Chaucer's job, to show them up in his writings.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Chaucer's Critique: Prioress and Monk in The Canterbury Tales. (2017, Oct 31). Retrieved from

Chaucer's Critique: Prioress and Monk in The Canterbury Tales essay
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