Chaucer uses satire in the descriptions of the pilgrims in the "General Prologue" of The Canterbury Tales to reveal corruption in the Church that was prevalent in society. Many members of the clergy used their positions for personal gain. This can be seen in his cast of characters. Of all the pilgrims associated with the Church, the Parson is the only one who is honorable.
One of the corrupt pilgrims is the Monk. The Monk disregards the rules that govern monasteries. The narrator is referencing this book of rules when he states: "But this same text he held not worth an oyster;/And I said his opinion was right good" (18-19). The narrator really doesn't agree with the Monk's opinion that the rules are outdated. He is using sarcasm to make his point that the Monk chooses not to follow the rules because they hamper his lifestyle of hunting, owning possessions, and eating fine foods.
Another member of the Church Chaucer satirizes is the Friar. The narrator states that "He was the finest beggar of his house" (42). This statement has double meaning. The Friar is a successful beggar because he makes such a good living begging from the wealthy people in his district. Instead of helping the poor, he uses this income for himself. In this way he is also a "fine" beggar because he does own expensive clothes that he wears on arbitration days. Friars were not allowed to mediate for profit, so this is another way he is a corrupt member of the Church. The Friar allows sinners to pay him for forgiveness when they are unable to show remorse for their sins.
Chaucer reveals a changing society in The Canterbury Tales. While he does focus more on members of the clergy, he also gives commentary on society through other characters like the Squire. Unlike the Knight, his father, the Squire is interested in battle because of the attention he receives from the ladies.
Essay on Satire in Canterbury Tales
1020 WordsNov 21st, 20055 Pages
The aim of any true satirical work is to poke fun at a certain aspect of society, while also inspiring reform to that very same aspect in one way or another. In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chaucer satirizes the Medieval Church and those associated with the church. Medieval society was centered largely around the Church. Ideally, the people were expected to understand that earthly possessions were meaningless when compared to the prospect of closeness with God. Man was expected to work until he died, at which time he would receive eternal salvation. This eternal salvation was achieved by obeying God's commandments. This theory, however, was becoming progressively corrupted as hypocrisy began to pollute the Church, particularly at the higher…show more content…
Chaucer makes it quite clear to the reader that these men boast about the high morals of the Church, and then proceed to live in stark contrast to nearly every one of these morals. One example is how the Church preaches a solemn vow of chastity. Nevertheless, Chaucer tells of how the Friar had "fixed up many a marriage, giving each/ Of his young women what he could afford her." Therefore, the Friar would find husbands for the women that he had previously seduced but then lost interest in. Another aspect of the Church that these "holy-men" prove inconsistent is the vow of simple living. The Monk lives a rather lavish lifestyle, as Chaucer tells, "The Rule of good St. Benet or St. Maur/ As old and strict he tended to ignore;/ He let go by the things of yesterday/ And took the modern world's more spacious way." The monk enjoyed the comforts of good living, with fur-lined clothing, a fine horse, and first class meals. Likewise, the Friar enjoyed fine clothing, as Chaucer says, "Not then appearing as your cloistered scholar/ With threadbare habit hardly worth a dollar,/ But much more like a Doctor or a Pope." These elegant lifestyles are clearly in opposition to the teachings of the Church on simplistic living. Finally, the Pardoner preaches on behalf of the Church against greed and avarice, however he is very greedy himself. In his tale, the Pardoner tells an excellent tale denouncing greed and showing how greed leads to a person's downfall, yet the