Throughout the prologue, the narrator seems to present the story as if he is an omniscient being with insight into all aspects of their lives, past and present. However, each character shows a severely exaggerated quality, highlighting Chaucer’s distain with different classes of society for different reasons. For instance, when describing the corrupt church officials, like the Summoner and the Pardoner, their greed is their most noticeable quality, as was commonplace in the church during the era that The Canterbury Tales was written. The desire for wealth, Chaucer believed, was not appropriate for a clergyman, though it was sometimes painfully apparent in that age. The subtlety with which Chaucer inserted this type of characterization allows readers to understand the issues going on at the time, almost without realizing they are. By viewing multiple church members as greedy and corrupt, readers can easily imagine that this was a widespread issue. Chaucer established this quietly, for fear of persecution, without stating it outright; it was up to the readers to find and interpret his point of view.
The prologue definitely has a moral lesson attached to it. He teaches the readers that greed and corruption are not everything. He overexaggerates the little things, like the detailing of the clothing, to emphasize how corrupt a person is. For example, when talking about the monk, Chaucer writes that he is the humblest man in all of the kingdom, and yet he owns the finest fur coat of all the land, showing that he is corrupt. None of the characters have a moral compass, and Chaucer wants the readers to understand that everyone must have one. If not, they will die with all the money in the world, but they will die with a broken and sad heart.
For Brianna Gittens' comment, a) Wow, you would be the first one to post something, and the church members did not fear persecution because they were smarter and wealthier than the peasants who lived down below. You need to remember, during this time period, there was no such thing as persecution because of the PLAGUE. The PLAGUE scared people and they believed this corrupt officials because they promised them a rite-of-passage to heaven. However, I do like the rest of your comment.
To Anna, I was not referring to the church officials when I mentioned a fear of persecution. I was referring to Chaucer, who knew that if he wrote his opinions blatantly, he could be jailed or possibly even killed for his beliefs (he did live in an old monarchical society, after all). That is why he uses satire in a very quiet, subtle manner--he does not want to offend the church or the king, both of which could wind up hurting him.
In the prologue, you can see Chaucer's morality through his descriptions of the different classes of the characters. He overexaggerates their traits to show his disdain toward the different classes. For example, he makes the Pardoner into a seemingly great man, even in reality a Pardoner ends up taking the money of trusting devotees of Christ. Another prime example of his overexaggeration to describe his disgust is the Monk. The Monk is supposed to be very humble, but is overly well-fed and wears expensive clothing. Using his sarcasm towards the personality of the characters, he attempts to show the common people how corrupt the Church is and that greed is a sin.
To Brianna, even though I do agree with your comments about his satirical ways, we must remember that he has already insulted the King by placing this story in Canterbury. If he meant not to insult the king, then he would have placed this story in Egypt or Itlay or some other place holy references and deaths are used. However, Chaucer know that in order to make this satirical he must insult everyone without being to overboard on it. The King was more interested in frolicking with his knights' wives and prostitutes than reading into this. If he did, he would have probably be very shocked and Chaucer would have been killed. But, he did not and Chaucer planned that. I also believe that Chaucer is saying that the king is the biggest sinner of them all. Do you agree?
To Aubrey, I completely agree with you. If Chaucer wanted to not show how unmoral these people are, he would have said, "This is the Pardoner. He is corrupt. The End." Agree?
To Anna, I think that Chaucer paints no one person as the worst sinner, but that each social class is made up of people who each possess a sin of their own. He does this in his descriptions of the church, when he mentions the greed of the Pardoner and the pride of the Prioress (she should be a holy woman, not concerned with her appearance and social class, but she is). He speaks negatively of the wealthy class, highlighting the sloth of the Man of Law (who pretends to be busier than he actually is) and the lust of the Squire (who "loved so passionately" he barely slept). Basically, in Chaucer's eyes, depravity is rampant, and everyone is capable of being corrupt. Yes, the king and the aristocracy made up a class of sinners, but I'm not sure I agree that he portrayed the King as the biggest sinner of them all, especially because there was no reference to a king in the prologue.
Chaucer's descriptions in the Prologue utilize specific details to make his point on morality. By mentioning the clothing, habits, and personalities of the specific pilgrims, something that would probably not have been common in the literature of the time, as well as the subtle use of irony, he highlights what he perceives as the immorality of his society. For example, there is the proud, vain Prioress, who seemingly loves herself more than God, when the opposite should be true of a nun. There's the Friar, who is a beggar himself, but thinks too highly of himself to associate with lepers and other beggars and instead solely keeps company with the upper class. Chaucer calls the Skipper an "excellent fellow" almost mockingly, as he then goes on to tell about how the Skipper ignores the "nicer rules of conscience" and is generally like a pirate. There's a Doctor who uses magic instead of medicine, a Monk who prefers not to do a Monk's work, and guildsmen who dress and act like noblemen. Chaucer seems to be trying to stress how out of control things have gotten.
To Anna, I'm not sure I see how placing the story in Canterbury would insult the King. People were actually going there on pilgrimages. Those pilgrimages weren't insulting to the King, especially considering that while Thomas a Becket was killed by supporters of the King, it was almost 200 years before the Canterbury Tales were written. Setting it in another place, like Italy (Egypt would have been predominately Muslim at the time, like it is now, so Christians wouldn't really have been going there) would have made the story difficult to relate to and it would have lost the value of its social criticism, but I don't think it had anything to do with the King. Also, I doubt he would have been so busy "frolicking" that between that and, you know, ruling a kingdom he wouldn't have bothered to really look at what Chaucer was writing, considering he was paying for Chaucer to write.
To Brianna, I agree that by describing several Church officials as being corrupt and greedy Chaucer is trying to show that the Church as a whole is corrupt and greedy, and a similar thing with the upper class. I also agree that he would have been afraid of both the King and the Church. In addition, "depravity" is a good word. It should be in the vocab book, if it isn't already. Also, am I the only one who thinks Chaucer has a somewhat holier-than-thou attitude at times?
Chaucer's views on the morality in the society in which he lives are revealed through his narration in descriptions of the other pilgrims. He begins his tale with details of nature, the revitalization of spring, and a holy pilgrimage. Ironically, the descriptions of the characters that follow are far from pure and holy as the opening lines depict. In the case of the Pardoner, Chaucer describes in detail the clothes he wears and the manner in which he carries himself. He directs readers to the observation that the Pardoner is a man who dresses well and wears his money on his belt, inferring that he values money and keeps it close to him. Perhaps the only character his narrator truly finds morally good is the Parson, who is ironically poor in wealth but a devout man. Meanwhile, the other clergymen dress in riches and do not want for food, but still seek the money of the poor for selfish means.
In the prologue, Chaucer’s morality is made known through the use of satirical techniques to dissect characters from different social statuses; however it is made clear that his main target is to expose the corruption of the church. Chaucer describes people from the First Estate (Clergy), and shines a light on their faults. For example, he describes the monk who does not devote himself to prayer, as he is more modern and does not believe in the established rules of the monastery. He then identifies the Friar as a beggar who has been with many woman, and makes a sarcastic comment on how he is one of the “church’s finest”. Evidently, sarcasm leads the reader to realize the impious ways of these people, who supposedly work to serve god. The irony of it all is further exemplified by the fact that these people set out on this pilgrimage to show their religious loyalty, when in reality, they do not set good examples and go against what they are supposed to believe in as church figures.
In response to Caitlin: I also agree that Chaucer has this “holier-than-thou” attitude. At times he conveys himself as better than the rest because he can identify corruption within each character. He points out everyone else’s faults, but what about his own? We do not have any knowledge about the narrator’s background because he does not give a description of himself, though he would only present a biased opinion. He seems to have a pretty good idea of what he believes is right and wrong, but does he practice what he preaches? Therefore, we can question how morally sound he really is, compared to the rest of the group.
In the Prologue, Chaucer uses satirical techniques in order to express his morality. He goes through all of the pilgrims and points out their faults, using a very sarcastic tone while doing so. For example when the narrator talks about the Physician, he praises him and says he is the "perfect practicing physician." However, Chaucer then goes on to say that the Doctor neglects the bible and only loves gold, not helping people. He does this for everyone, picking out the good and the bad in them. Nevertheless, the narrator criticizes everyone, but the audience is never told who he is or what he is like. Who is he to be criticizing everyone else? He obviously has very strong opinions on what he feels is right and wrong, but is it right to judge everyone else and let know no one judge who you are?
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In response to Brittany: I feel like Chaucer's feelings towards the rich and poor help us to identify who he is in society. We have no idea who the narrator is; all the audience knows is that he is going on a pilgrimage. However, he can infer from the way that he judges everyone, that he is somewhat educated, therefore he must be one of the wealthier pilgrims. However, he comes off as almost elitist in the way that he puts the rich clergymen down. From this we can infer that he is probably a hardworking man and looks down on the clergymen who take advantage of the poor. Nonetheless, we can only assume that Chaucer is a diligent man based on his morals expressed in the prologue.
In The Prologue, Chaucer chooses his words very carefully. He wants the reader to know exactly how he feels about each person from the start of the pilgrimage. Which means that the prologue is a biased description of each character. Chaucer is making it his mission to point out the faults in the Church and its leaders every chance he gets. While Chaucer does show respect for some characters, including the Knight and the Parson, he is also very critical of those who are affiliated with the Church, the Pardoner, Nun, and the Friar. Chaucer is criticizing the Church, which at that time was very powerful and influential in society. Chaucer points out the flaws in the church to get his audience to believe that not everything the Church does is for the good will of society. They are corrupt, hypocritical and greedy and look out for themselves before others. They are all programmed with human error, but Chaucer exaggerates everything to get his point across. Almost every character commits one of the seven deadly sins, and being that most of the characters on the pilgrimage are leaders of the church, it just goes to show that because these characters do God's work does not necessarily mean that they follow it. The morals of the prologue are the opposite society's morals during this time period. The church and its strict beliefs are the morals of society,but Chaucer reveals the truth to the public, which is the exact opposite from the firm beliefs of the church.
Im response to Amanda's comment, I agree with your questioning of the narrator's judgement and position in society. He should have identified himself in some way so we are able to tell where he would come into play in the prologue. He is probably somewhere in between the pardoner and the summoner because his level of pride is just as noticeable and their level of greed. The narrator clearly prides himself on being omniscient, by revealing every single flaw that each person has. I would like to know how each of the other characters would describe the narrator, since he spends most of his time nitpicking about their morals.
I strongly agree with Angela's statement, I was thinking the exact same thing. It is very ironic that all of the corrupt leaders of church are making a holy pilgrimage, while they are each at fault for committing sins. Their loyalty to the church is not in question as much as their actions and judgements are. They must be aware of their mistakes and misjudgments, and are making up for them by going on the pilgrimage. If the leaders were not so hypocritical and actually tried to follow the rules they preached, then this would not be the issue.
To Amanda Verdadero, while the narrator is purposely ambiguous due to the first person narrative, through his observations readers can infer a few key points to the man. It is true that he is a person who is very critical of others. The readers may never find out whether he is a virtuous man or not. However, his desire to tell the tales as they are reveals that he is a man who at least likes honesty in himself. From his descriptions of the other pilgrims readers might be able to infer that he is critical of others’ sins and therefore does not practice those sins himself, otherwise he would be insulting himself. On the other hand, he could be a hypocrite as you have said, and merely point out others’ flaws and not his own.
There is a strong moral impact in Chaucer's prologue of The Canterbury Tales. Most of the characters display different deadly sins, gluttony, envy, sloth, pride, greed, wrath, and lust. One of the only characters who do not show any of these impurities is the night. He is shown as the cleanest and holiest of all. He is less tolerable of those that are of a lower social class, showing him to be biased. The members of the clergy are the most sinful in this story, which is quite ironic. It is laughable that this motley crew of people are making a religious pilgrimage, for they are all corrupt, including Chaucer and the seemingly untainted knight. For to be a knight, it is common knowledge you must slay another, and the sixth commandment states that "you shall not kill." With this, Chaucer points out how even the most seemingly pious beings are tainted by selfish and the world around him.
In regards to Amanda Verdadero's previous post; I completely agree. Although, Chaucer can be seen as an omniscient narrator, bluntly stating the good and bad in all, but not necessarily having a true opinion. His role in the story is to criticize, as he is the peacekeeper and mostly just a fly on the wall. He is listening and inferring to relate a message to the reader on how those are not as they seem. Yes, he does do this through criticism and sarcasm, but he wouldn't be able to efficiently get his point across otherwise.
Angela Arguson, whereas his main purpose is to exploit the members of the clergy, I feel that everyone is a victim to his criticism. He does show the faults of those in the lower classes as well, just to a smaller degree. Perhaps it is because the leaders of the church are held to a higher standard than most, and it is more common for a yeoman to falsify himself than a friar or nun.
To Drea, I agree it is ironic that one of the "purest" people on the pilgrimage is a man who kills for a living. On one hand he is modest and upholds all the virtues of his stature, which none of the clergy do, and serves to protect the country. He is one of the most virtuous in that sense, but has gone to numerous countries and won wars, which entail the sin of murder.
To Brianna, so if there is no one sinner, how come you mentioned there is just one in your earlier statements? Chaucer was indeed a very smart man, as mentioned above in other posts and yours included, and yet if he were so intelligent of a man, then why was he caught, in a way (topic from our seminar earlier today)? I mean, if his satire was secretive, then why did the people on this pilgrimage get so angry at him? Is honesty, as Chaucer said he would do, really the best policy during this time period? And, if everyone is in fact a sinner, then shouldn't they all be damned into hell like the rest of society, even though their roles are considered "holy" and "unbiased"? Is everyone in this story truly "holy" and "unbiased"? Or are they all sinners because they were following societies' ways? Is everyone a follower? And, if so, how do we eliminate those followers that must do as society, or in this case, the king tells them to in order to live, which henceforth, make them all corrupt and unmoral souls? Chaucer says no one is perfect, but he also says that every sinner must die. And, if that is true, then the world will only have my dog, a jar of peanut butter, and Chaucer left after he is done playing God.
To Amanda Sce, I do agree with your comments of Chaucer being biased against the church officials. He definately wants to show the world that even the most holiest of are corrupt. But, are they truly corrupt? Or are they making the arguement that God told me to do this and such? Just some things to think about. Also, I like how you mentioned that everyone has at least one of the seven deadly sins (with the exception of the knight). It just shows, how you've mentioned above, how truly corrupt society was at the time. :)
In the prologue of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Chaucer's narrator attempts to attain an omniscient, god-like point of view when describing the backgrounds of each character on the pilgrimage to Canterbury. However, that objective point of view is constantly misconstrued throughout the prologue. Dropping subtle hints using satire and humor, it becomes apparent what the true feelings of the narrator are in response to each character. Although the Chaucer's narrator does not force his opinion on the reader, his indirect characterization of each pilgrim lets the reader come to their own conclusions of how the narrator feels.
To Brianna,I completely agree that Chaucer had to state his opinions subtly because yes, if he was blatant with the way he felt he would be persecuted. We can even say that he stated his opinions too obviously because Chaucer eventually had to write an apology for the tales. Any reader can tell that the narrator felt a deep disdain for people of the clergy. However he manifested a way so that he subtly made the reader comes to their own conclusions and their own thoughts.
In response to Anna's Post: I disagree with that fact that none of Chaucer's characters seem to have a moral compass. Yes, it seems that most characters on the pilgrimage such as the clergy men have no sense of morality, however, the first few characters that Chaucer describes do. Take the knight for example, there is not one negative characteristic attributed to him because it obvious that he is the favorite in the narrators eyes. The fact that you are connecting the the Knight possessing no morality because the bible says not to kill and he fights in wars seems a little far fetched in my opinion. The narrator speaks only good of the Knight and leaves no description that can be inferred as having no moral compass
Chaucer's main purpose in the Prologue is to expose the hypocrisy of mankind in general, though most obviously the Church. Every character is supposedly a good Christian, hence their pilgrimage, yet they all demostrate awful sins. The church officals such as the Friar, the Pardoner, and the Nun seem to commit the worst sins through excessive greed and indulgence. This makes an obvious statement about those involved directly with the Church, but Chaucer's subtle satire in regards to the Knight makes a larger point about the religion as a whole. The Knight is seen as the most noble of the travelers and his deeds in war make him the most honorable. But the wars he fought in, the Crusades, were wars over the Holy Land. It seems odd that a religion that preaches "love thy neighbor," "thou shalt not kill," and "thou shalt not covet" would praise those that commited each of those acts. It's hard to say what Chaucer's views are on people of other religions since all of England was Catholic, but based on the Prologue he might think that all religious groups are inherently corrupt and the world's view on morality is completely hypocritical.
In response to Amanda Verdedero: I think you make a very good point in questioning the narrator's place to be judging everyone else. By saying that everyone around him is immoral, it would only make sense that he is immoral, too. He isn't God, so he has faults and shouldn't be judging everyone else based on theirs. He claims to tell the story exactly as it happened, but his account is by no means unbiased and since we don't know anything about him, we have to take it with a grain of salt.
To Anna (hehehe, this war of words will go on and on), I said that no one sinner was the worst sinner of all, not that no one has sinned. And despite the fact that Chaucer was discovered as having this point of view, he still shielded his most brutal opinions from the masses. Because his beliefs are so subtly-implanted, it takes a critical thinker to uncover them (I didn't catch them the first time I read the prologue). Yes, people eventually figured out Chaucer's reasoning behind this literary work, but that does not somehow demonstrate that he was neither smart nor a good writer. Additionally, I don't think Chaucer is writing this story to damn the sinners to hell or present a solution to the problem of corruption in his society, but merely to show that a problem exists--it's an epidemic that is spreading to everyone, even the Church.
In response to Brianna's first post: You raise an interesting point in saying that Chaucer required a bit of anonymity due to fear of persecution. While it is definitely true that if his point was made too obvious he would have been in serious trouble, the fact that he is educated generally associates him with the upper class or the clergy. If that was the case, it is odd that he would be so critical of his peers. In addition, the people who would have been smart enough to pick up on his subtle wit would have been upper class as well, so persecution was almost unavoidable.
Chaucer's view of morality is pronounced through his creation of an omniscient narrator who uses satirical techniques to describe the "commendable" characteristics of the pilgrims. In the beginning of The Prologue, Chaucer hypnotizes his readers with serene pictures of spring, which is indicative of rebirth and renewal in a religious sense. However, as The Prologue progresses, one can deduce that Chaucer described each pilgrim in such a way that each is representative of a deadly sin. For example, Chaucer depicts the Monk as a man who over indulges in food and materialistic items, when in reality he should be devoting himself to the church and God; thus he is representative of gluttony. Moreover, the Pardoner is supposedly a holy man who makes an honest living by pardoning people for their sins, he acts as if has a huge burden to bear, however the money that he earns heals his pain, therefore, he is a euphemism for greed. The sin of greed encompasses an array of characters being that it was the main source of corruption during the time period, the church, especially, was full of greed and sin. Through the descriptions of the pilgrims, Chaucer’s contempt and disdain toward the class system is clearly evident. It is as if Chaucer wrote The Prologue as a way to relieve stress;he is able to poke fun at the church, which he views as the enemy of mankind.
In response to Brittany M: I completely agree with your comment. Chaucer characterizes every character besides the parson in a sarcastic, scornful manner. When Chaucer characterizes the Parson, he almost does it in a sincere, admirable way, being that the Parson is a devout churchman unaffected by the corruption of the era. Although he is physically poor, he is rich in knowledge. Therefore, I propose the question: Which virtue is the Parson intended to represent? I believe it is humility, being that he is what the other characters should be, humble and thankful. Moreover, Chaucer shows great respect for the Knight. Does this mean that Chaucer regards the people of the first estate as faultless, or does he possess a greater tolerance for them?
In response to Angela: I agree with you when you say that Chaucer’s intention was to expose the church. However, he also used satirical techniques to dissect those of royalty and those of poverty. Unlike popular belief, I believe that the church and society of the medieval era are equally corrupt. The two entities mimicked each other in a “monkey-see-monkey-do” fashion. If this was the case, then we can all conclude that there was no hope for society and the church. If the one thing connecting the pilgrims to God was morally corrupt, due to its losing battle against greed, who would they turn to for guidance, to heal them of their corruption? To each other? I think not, like you said, the pilgrims of the medieval era were not the holiest of people. Therefore, we can not deem the church worse than the people and vice versa, because the two go hand-in-hand, the effort of trying to separate the two is futile.
In response to Alexa, I feel as though Chaucer includes morally commendable characters in different classes to show that living a virtuous life is completely attainable for everyone, no matter their rank in society. When he refers the Knight, he describes him with the utmost respect. This kind tone is also apparent in his description of the Parson. Though one is poor and the other is rich, though one is a man of God and the other a man of the kingdom (and God to a lesser extent, of course), both clearly display at least some of the Cardinal Virtues and none of the sins. Chaucer shows that it is possible for anyone to lead a righteous existence, and they are used to sharply contrast those members of society who have lost touch with morality.
To Caroline,Killing someone is killing someone, whether it is for a noble cause or it is premediated. The knight has murdered, and he has the blood on his hands and armor to prove it. Although you are right that the knight is humble, I am not looking at that. I am looking at his indirect traits of the past. Most likely (although possibly not true), he was the way that his son was: lustful, arrogant, and disobidient. These battles, which is what the knight is trying to do for his son, probably brought him to reality and made him the humble person that he is. We cannot just look at the details Chaucer gives us but, also the whole facts that Chaucer has left out and lets us toy with in our own senses, feelings, and thoughts.
To Brianna, so if there was a problem that existed, then why was it not fixed? Oh, wait, I remember, the church officials were smarter than everyone else. As corrupt as they were, the church officials were the smartest people out there. They deceived people into believing that they will go to hell for the smallest of sins, when they themselves were practicing the deadliest of them. And, what about peer pressure? What if these corrupt church officials had bad leaders and are followers as I've mentioned before? We must also add these factors in. I do agree with the fact of what they did was wrong. What I HATE, I TRULY HATE is the fact that Chaucer plays God, and is a hypocrite. He says he is good, yet he criticizes others to make himself look better. By playing God he criticizes whomever he feels like and decides that he is better than anyone else. That is a deadly sin called PRIDE. Chaucer practices it, and so do a lot of people in society back then and even today. Chaucer, in my mind, has dissed and criticized the church officials the most, from the Nun Prioress to the Pardoner, and that just gives me the thought that, what if Chaucer was not a believer in the church? After all, with the plague and 100 years war still going on, what if he has given up? What if he lost someone precious to him in one of these events, and gave up on God altogether? What if he is a crazy lunatic and believes that he IS God, and that gives him the right to criticize everyone in the church? Or what if he and Thomas a Beckett were homies and he now hates everyone because they destroyed him? You never know, but that's what I got from the indirect traits about Chaucer. And so, without further ado, our war of words continues...(I really hope Mrs. Lounsbury doesn't mind...oh well :D)
To Anna: I'm pretty sure criticizing someone has nothing to do with playing God. Everyone judges people and criticizes them without knowing them, but that doesn't mean they're all playing God. If every person thought that they were God, our world would be even more messed up than it already is. Playing God is more like deciding who can live and die or who goes to hell and who goes to heaven. Chaucer does neither of these things. He simply forms opinions about people based on what he sees. Most of these opinions are negative, but that doesn't make him self-righteous or crazy; it just makes him judgmental. You sure know how judgmental I can be. Do you also think that I'm insane or that I play God?
In response to Alexa’s comment to Brittany:I think you meant to question if he regards the people of the second estate as faultless, not the first. The first estate consists of “the ones who pray”, and the knight would be a part of the second estate or “the ones who fight”. Other than that, I believe that Chaucer appears to have no patience for the high ranking clergy. I do agree with you when you mentioned that he speaks highly of the knight compared to several other pilgrims. Chaucer is aware that none of these estates are entirely perfect, however I believe he does have a greater tolerance for one estate over another. ,
To Brianna: I understand that Chaucer includes respectable characters in order to show his readers that there was a better way of life. Like you said, Chaucer establishes the Knight and Parson as euphemisms for the cardinal virtues to offset the sinful Pardoner, Friar, etc. However, I can't help but wonder why Chaucer is adamant in picking out the flaws of the various social classes; there were people during that time period who lived virtuously.
In my opinion how could the commoners not be corrupt individuals, they are looking up to these people in the higher classes, more prominently the church officials and seeing the corruption they have. How can one see past all of the sin, greed, and lust of those that are supposed to be respectful to God. If the church officials aren't exactly the picture perfect person how can they expect the lower class to be anything but sinners, when in their time period religion was a major part of one's life? The system that was established at the time period was completely horrid. Of course we have the Knight and Parson that are respectable people in society, that actually deserve the respect that they are getting, but having two of the highest individuals be the only role models to those people below is wrong. Let's face it human nature tells us to resent and hate those at the top, when we are lowly and at the bottom, we may want to be like these individuals but trying to maintain their status is hard and seemingly hopeless. Therefore I believe this people all lived in sin, because they had no one to look up to, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Because really when you live in a world where corruption is so commonly engulfing you you just get used to it and it because apart of your simple every day life.
to Sarah: I agree with your comment. Chaucer wasn't trying to be God, he was simply just observing and criticizing the people based on his observations. How could we get upset with him for just simply stating his opinions? We all do it, we are all guilty of being judgmental so why must we attack Chaucer as if he has done such an unforgivable deed. Surely from what I am reading here between the comments and the prologue he isn't as corrupt as some of the church officials, who in my books are the most corrupt and sinful of all.
In response to Alexa: I agree with your comment. Chaucer's use of irony and satirical techniques show the audience his views of morality. He values religion and feels as though many of the pilgrims, especially the clergymen, have disgraced it with their sins. Chaucer's descriptions of the pilgrims may or may not be accurate; his descriptions may be based only on his perception. However, he does make it clear that the corruption going on within the church should not be tolerated.
In his Canterbury Tales, Chaucer uses satirical techniques to reveal to his audience the realities of both his time period, and human nature in itself. Through sarcasm and the usage of connotative meanings, Chaucer reveals that the people with whom the narrator travels to Canterbury, each being reflective of general human characters, are not quite what they seem. Each companion has some sort of façade in use; the Prioress emphasizes her “modesty”, yet proudly speaks French and takes excess care in her appearance; the Friar, who is supposed to live in modest poverty as a dedication to God, dresses in the finest furs; the Yeoman who dresses finely, carries many weapons, and puts on the image that he is a “forester.” I don’t believe that Chaucer was trying to illuminate the immorality of just the upper class of this time period, but the mere fact that everyone, despite their economic state, has committed some sort of wrong-doing. I see Chaucer’s satirical strategies, as applied in each character’s description, as a way to show the audience that regardless of the fact that these people, who each are a part of a multi-leveled society, are making this holy-pilgrimage, they’re just like every other person – they have their flaws, including their trying to hid said flaws. Although they claim some sort of holiness or superiority, all the people that the narrator travels with to Canterbury are guilty of some class of sin or immorality. Chaucer writes about these traits in his characters to illuminate a fact about both the time period and humanity in general. Human nature cannot avoid flaws in morality, a person can be extremely generous and helpful, but also may want to enjoy some material things for themselves; this is simply a part of being a human. Chaucer may have been trying to tell his audience that a sort of balance is needed in order to have things function properly.
in response to Ashleys comment: I completely agree. In this time period people were raised to admire and follow the ways of the clergy and the knights. They were supposed to be the moral guidlines of the people. Unfortunately the commoners did follow them moraly, but in the wrong way. It's similar to a child raised in a certain environment. If a child is raised by parents to believe stealing to be right, and who choose to teach this to their child, then the child will ultimately beleive stealing is right. One could argue that the child is able to choose his or herer opinion on stealing eventually, but only with some sort of exposure to exterior opinions. The only way commoners could escape from the immoral influences of the upper class would be to travel away from their somewhat bubbled-in environment. Good catch Ashley!
In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer picks apart each of the pilgrims exposing the sins they are guilty of and the virtues they practice. I think this analysis by the narrator is fitting because each of the characters is leaving their old life for some reason or another to start anew. Whether it is directly connected to their sins and/or virtues is yet to be made clear to the reader but regardless, every character is taking this journey for a reason which will hopefully become clear in the tales they tell. The prime example of this leap of faith would be in the description of the Yeoman. The Yeoman is a servant but is described as wearing the arms of a borderline soldier. One would speculate that the Yeoman has no intention of returning from Canterbury and that he plans on starting a new life there. Having said that, an argument can be made for each of the other pilgrims wanting to do the same.
Chaucers morality was displayed by, as others have said, his view as being "holier." He considers himself to be somewhat of a judger, he criticizes each of the characters flaws. He makes his feelings towards each character visible through his choice of words. Some of the characters he favors which is evident in the way they are described, indirectly or directly. It is easy to infer his attitude by his use of characterization as you can see by how he compares each character to another. Every character was easily connectable to either one of the seven deadly sins, or one of the seven virtues. This was not a coincidence, Chaucer did this to display his morality, but at the same time, he is careful not to offend any of his readers due to the high levels of respect at the time the Canterbury Tales were written.
For Amanda Sce's comment, I completely agree with your description. The morality of the prologue appears to be oppesite the morals set during the era in which this was written. His biased description of each character is not meant to offend, but to be critical of flaws which was uncommon during this time. To Sarah, I also agree with you. He wasnt trying to be god, just observing the ins and outs of each character, both physically and mentally. I also agree that he was exposing hypocracy. He used each persons story to reveal a different hypocracy. In this time, everyone appeared to be a perfect, religious person, when in reality they all had flaws. This idea reminds me of the Salem Witch Trials. They all appeared to be good christians until they were accused of being witches, when the entire town would turn on you. This hypocracy if examined closely, is the same basis on which is happening in The Canterbury's prologue.
To Austin: I agree with your idea. I can see how you can compare what the yoeman is portraying himself to be to him actually trying to accomplish it at Canterbury. During this time period it was very hard for people to jump class zones, the urge for them to want to though was strong. Therefore one can agree that they wish to all start anew, maybe in a completely different life, but we must keep in mind that most of these people cannot change because they have already made their decisions in life and they can't really alter them enough to change completely. But I really do like this idea!
To Sarah, in my mind Chaucer is playing God, and sees himself as all good and everyone else as corrupt, heartless mortals. He sees himself better than anyone else, as in example, the Cook, which is the shortest description because he does not see the cook as his equal. If he did, there would be a longer description. Chaucer tells us what he wants us to see, and not what others want us to see. He wants us to see that the church is a corrupt, unmoral place, and that God is unhappy by it, but in reality only Chaucer is. If Chaucer was really giving his opinions on these people, then he would at least attempt to contradict each one, but instead he judges them. Judging someone is wrong, and is called Pride. Chaucer has a lot of it: he thinks he is better, more powerful, and more godly than any other person on this trip and he therefore must belittle them in order to prove that point. Therefore, I believe that Chaucer is still playing God.
To Heather's comment: I agree with you that Chaucer uses satirical techniques to enhance his writing. If you catch his sacrasm and irony at times it can be quite funny. You can tell Chaucer is just trying to show that every person has their flaws despite what class they're considered. Also, I agree with the statement you made about not just trying to illuminate the upper class as being immoral. I do not thing this was Chaucers intention as much as just trying to show that even though they're supposed to be perfect it is humanly impossible.
In response to Sarah: I completely agree with you that almost every character is a hypocrite in some way. The narrator by criticizing everyone else makes himself out to be perfect, which in reality is untrue because no one is free from flaws. Also the church members who are supposed to be holy, honest and generous, end up being the most corrupt and greedy. This in my opinion was Chaucers point in the Prologue.
Chaucer's tone towards the characters of Canterbury Tales as the Prologue unfolds reveals that he is adopting a certain persona. That persona is a holy, sensible man whom possesses all seven of the Cardinal virtues: Diligence, Kindness, Temperance, Chastity, Humor, Charity, and Modesty. He expresses his faith in these virtues through indirect characterization. He describes the immoral characters with a sarcastic or satirical tone, while speaking of the virtuous characters with a reverent tone. For instance, in line 121, after illustrating the Yeoman's gaudy attire, he states "he was a proper forester I guess". The key phrase here is "I guess": the showy appearance of the servant causes Chaucer to doubt the morality of this character. He continues to point out the moral fallacies of characters throughout the prologue, and almost all of them possess at least one of the seven deadly sins. However, Chaucer speaks of the Parson with honor, "I think there never was a better priest"(Line 534). The Parson is a poor priest that is kind to all ranks of people. In light of Chaucer's disapproval of the Yeoman and honor for the Parson, one can infer Chaucer believes that having pride in material wealth and social status is putting yourself before God. It is clear that Chaucer has a strong faith in the Christian religion, and his method of expressing his own virtues is to exemplify the follies and successes of others.
To Anna Donio: I respectfully disagree with your opinion. Chaucer is the narrator of the story. He chooses to serve as an observer rather than a vital part of the plot. He does not characterize himself in any way, and for this reason we know nothing about him and cannot assume that he believes he is God. His purpose is not to show he is superior to the other characters; the characters are mere figments of his imagination, not real people. His point was to share his beliefs about morals and the corruption of the Church though fictional techniques. The characters serve as metaphors for the evils of the Church: adultery, greed, etc. So when he points out their flaws, he is not judging real people, he is just getting his point across. He never said he was perfect, he just thought what the church was doing was wrong and wanted to expose it to the public. He was passionate about the Church and it let him down, and Canterbury tales served as his outlet for expressing his anguish.
To Brianna: I agree with you in the sense that Canterbury tales was Chaucer's way of exposing the corruption of the church without getting persecuted. After all, the church was the cornerstone of society during this time and any protest against it would surely have been dangerous. Each of the characters represent a different exaggerated quality, and this leads me to believe Chaucer's story was not just a fun story written to show how holy he was, but a social protest with deep moral meanings. The Canterbury Tales can be considered an allegory in this way.
In the General Prologue, I do believe there is a sense or morality. However, I believe it is the complete opposite of the set of standards of the time. Chaucer writes about, as stated in previous comments, the corruption of the church. At this time the church was regarded very highly and by writing about all the greed and lust that he believed went on, Chaucer put himself in hot water with some very important people. In the prologue, Chaucer uses a persona to convey himself as being higher ranked and basically says he can do no wrong and is only telling these stories as he heard them, I believe he does this because he knows how different his views are and how much trouble he could really get into, so if he puts in this disclaimer it will all just be seen as good fun, when truly it is a political and social story meant to stir up emotions.
In response to Jacob, I agree that Chaucer uses all these descriptions so readers can get a sense of all the sins the pilgrims have commited, but I fail to see how the descriptions show morality really. I know you get Chaucer's biased opinion, but it still leaves me puzzled how one man's opinion, that infuriated others, can be held as the morals of the time.
In response to Ashley, I completely agree with what you said. We live in a world, as did these pilgrims, where you despise people on top, but everyone has that desire to be on top. In the prologue Chaucer conveyed that, with the knight and the parson they deserved respect and got it because they did not try to impress people, they just went out and did their jobs. All of the other clergy members were dying for attention and were living a life of corruption, which led Chaucer to detest them.
Chaucer takes on his responsibility as narrator by illustrating just how immoral the pilgrims in the prologue can be. While there are some moral citizens, such as the Knight, who is noble and truthful, and the Reeve, who typically demonstrates intelligence, responsibility and dedication to his lord, the bulk of the characters represent sin rather than virtue. The Pardoner and the Friar, who work for the church by forgiving people's sins, are corrupt. The Pardoner collects profits from pardoning these sins for himself, showing how much greed he feels, and the Friar, who is supposed to be the opposite of a beggar, is the "finest beggar of his batch" (Line 256). The Doctor and the Yeoman also demonstrate atypical behaviors for people of their classes. The Doctor, who should normally treat patients using medicine, instead uses astronomy to determine when to assist people, and bases his patients' treatments on magic. The Yeoman, who works as a servant and should live humbly, chooses to lead a seemingly extravagant lifestyle, wearing fancy clothing and carrying pristine weaponry in an attempt to impress those around him, which shows how he is proud and envious. Then there is the Summoner, who is also not who he seems to be. The Summoner chooses to drink often and then speak Latin in an attempt to impress those around him and seem more educated than he truly is. Throughout the prologue, Chaucer seems to make it obvious that there are more sinful pilgrims than virtuous ones, which indicates the presence of faults in the society of which the prologue occurs. Chaucer's ultimate goal is to expose the tremendous amount of corruption among the members of society and possibly foreshadow that this corruption could lead to complications in the great pilgrimage that lies ahead.
In response to Kirsten: I strongly agree with what you say of Chaucer. He seems to speak poorly of some highly positioned people. He points out the faults in these citizens and seems to do it in a humorous way, although ultimately he truly intends to cause people to become irritated with the state of society. Chaucer also does seem to desire to make himself seem greater and more flawless than everyone else by pointing out the flaws of others in a way that he claims is acceptable. He does seem to say that he will do no harm, but truthfully, he wants to expose the faults in these people as much as possible.
In response to Drea: I absolutely agree that it is quite ironic that some of these people are going on a religious pilgrimage. Members of the clergy are expected to be the least corrupt of everyone, yet in the prologue they are shown to be the most corrupt. However, I do disagree with the Knight being corrupt. Although it is common knowledge that killing another is morally wrong, there are certain situations where it is necessary. The Knight participates in battles, and battle is an acceptable place to kill another person. Sometimes one must slay the enemy in order to protect one's society. Also, had the Knight not gone to battle, someone else would have had to take his place. No matter who it ended up being, someone would have had to take on the role of the Knight. Regardless of who the Knight is, there will be one, so why should he not take on that role in order to help his society? He kills only for good reason, so I believe that he has not committed sin by doing what is required to be done anyway.
As stated by many others, the General Prologue paints a very clear portrait of the class system of the time period during which these stories took place, but Chaucer did not fall short when providing personal opinions. He subtly slips in how immoral many of the social giants are within society, particularly the clergymen. The clergymen of this time period were looked up to, yet were the most corrupt and immoral of them all. I believe that Chaucer’s actual purpose in writing the Prologue was to reveal these corruptions and exposing the faults in society by leading readers to come to the same conclusions that he possesses. With this under consideration, I am under the impression that it is the narrator that is most corrupt, although this is just the opposite of what he would like his audience to conclude. There is a huge difference between stating opinions, including those of which are painstakingly accepted by a naïve society, and attempting to sway the personal opinions of others by conveniently mentioning solely the attributes of a particular character that aid a reader in forming an opinion similar to that of the narrator’s.
To Anna: if Chaucer saw himself as God-like, or playing God as you say, he would have given more accurate, unbiased, and well-rounded descriptions of the travelers because God is all-knowing. God is omiscient so Chaucer would have tried to make his narrator omniscient as well instead of just giving judgements based on first impressions. Chaucer's short description of the Cook is a prime example of this. God would have said more than "He is a good cook" because God knows everything about him. God loves all of his followers, regardless of moral fiber, and would not think less of a Cook than anyone else. Chaucer looks down upon the Cook, as you have said yourself, so he is clearly not playing God.
In response to Ashley, I completely agree with your point referring to the lack of a “good example” in society. In today’s world, an individual’s morals are, if not spot on, based off of he or she’s religious beliefs. For example, those who truly believe in the Ten Commandments believe that a child out of wedlock is morally wrong. Therefore, these people are literally disciples of the leading figures of their religion. The same goes for the society members under the clergymen. The clergymen are those who are looked up to and set the standards for moral adherence. Considering the corruption that spiked the clergy during this time, what else is the public supposed to do but sin when those to whom they follow sin on a regular basis?
In response to Jacob, I like the point you made about the narrator showcasing his moral standards in the Prologue, and he quite obviously achieves this goal. To add to what I said in my response, by revealing his moral standards, he also discloses to me his immorality of deceitfully swaying public opinion. I find this to be immoral because one of my beliefs is that an individual’s most prized possession is he or she’s personal opinions. Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, morality, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. For example, one who believes that killing, under any circumstances, is immoral, may conclude that war is immoral. Contrarily, someone may believe that war is morally acceptable. Furthermore, one who may believe that swaying public opinion is simply politics may believe that the narrator is perfectly under moral code.
In response to Brittany, I think you make an excellent point by discussing the opening lines where the narrator takes the time to focus on imagery of the time period. Spring is a time of renewal and revitalization as you said, where the pilgrims are going on this holy pilgrimage to pay homage to Thomas beckett and absolve their sins. In actuality, the narrator then goes on to explain how all of the pilgrims have excessive flaws, and none of them are as pure and holy as they ought to be. This maintains the beautiful irony of the prologue, and is able to make subtle digs at the church.
In response to Amanda V, I definitely agree with your argument about the narrator. He is able to take on this omniscient persona, and is able to tell the reader everything about these pilgrims knowing them for only a short period of time, but fails to introduce himself. He almost has an arrogant tone when speaking about the pilgrims. For example, when he describes the Yeoman he says “A forester he truly was, I guess.” By adding that sarcastic tone, the reader can infer that he thinks highly of himself, and truly loves to point out the flaws in others. But what sustainable argument does he have to back that up when he fails to mention anything about himself?
This is ironic. I found the narrator acting in a similar manner to a stand-up comedian who pulls apart various audience members in the room. He looks at their appearance and uses it to discern character. It is very judgmental and borderline stereotyping. However that is what makes it humorous. Stereotypes are funny. He judges each person sarcastically and mocks each's own internal impression of self. It works. But is it moral? The answer to this question is of course subjective, so it is necessary to ascertain morality, and in this case the reference point is the seven deadly sins. Chiefly, why is the narrator telling all this; what is the motive? Typically when someone picks fun at another it is often motivated by some sort of envy or anger (wrath). Also the condescending tone (as Angela mentioned, and which I will discuss later) demonstrates his arrogance and pride in himself because the only way someone could point out and mock the flaws in others is if that person believes he is not guilty of them himself. In this case that is an abundance of perfections. The irony is found in the sense that the narrator mocks the morality of these people and yet he himself demonstrates at least wrath, pride, and envy - three of the deadly sins.
In response to Amanda Verdadero: The narrator's ambiguity is something that the presentation lacks at this time. Amanda asked, "is it right to judge everyone else and let know no one judge who you are?" This is an interesting point and on the subject of morality what you are really asking is "is it moral to...?" His tone alone suggests certain characteristics of an - in relation to the seven deadly sins - immoral person. I personally do not see a problem with what he does, just as a stand-up comedian doesn't have to let the audience judge him in order to morally mock everyone else. However such is up to the individual to ascertain what constitutes as morality; some may say judgement of any kind is immoral and eligible for punishment. It is subjective.
In response to Angela Giordano's reply to Amanda V: You asked, "what sustainable argument does he have to back that up when he fails to mention anything about himself?" He unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately for him - does not need to provide a sustainable argument. He is just presenting his judgements and providing some personal insights - whether those are implied or not. Like any other presenter of observation you can decide whether to believe him or not. Can he provide some personal background to validate his credentials in your mind? Sure. In the past I have given personal background in a presentation that some people did not take to kindly to; perhaps he was better off not providing such for fear of deterring your advocation rather than ensuring it.
In response to Shannon Wesley: You made a claim that, "He expresses his faith in these virtues [not sins] through indirect characterization... and his method of expressing his own virtues is to exemplify the follies and successes of others." You then go on to say, "He describes the immoral characters with a sarcastic or satirical tone." This does not support your initial claim, as you intended it, but rather opposes it. The fundamental concept of his use of sarcasm and satire actually negates his faith in the seven heavenly virtues, as discussed in my original comment.
Tales, written by Geoffrey Chauser, a sense of morality, or in this case immorality, is hinted at numerous times by the narrator who assumes a "god-like" role when describing each member of the pilgrimage. Using direct and indirect characterization, the narrator exposes each pilgrim's sin and how they go against the morals that men and women of their stature should exemplify. Prime examples of this would be the members of the clergy. All of them were involved in the church and while they should have shown chastity and poverty, they instead portrayed lust and pride, two of the seven deadly sins. Here he shows that the church is not as holy as it was thought to be, and thus the irony is maintained through his manipulations of the readers.
To Jacob Ullmann, I agree with your original comment. Chauser does strike the reader as a higher being, one that has the ability to know and criticize each of the pilgrims’ flaws. While he did compare the characters to the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues, he accomplished it in a way that did not offend anyone because of the limitations on satire during that time period. As for comparing the characters I did not infer that he did so in the text, I believe that Chauser just described each one in a hierarchical order, or based on stature.
To Kristen Dillon, I agree completely with your original statement. Chauser wanted the readers to see his point of view, without being direct with so that he would not be put into a tough situation if he offended anyone. By telling the stories how they were, through his narrator, he avoided confrontation and was able to get his point across, even though his point was meant to cause mayhem.
In response to Mike's initial comment; towards the end of your comment you assume the existence of evidence that the narrator exemplifies wrath, pride and envy, however, there is no concrete evidence whatsoever. I believe the true reason behind the examination of each pilgrim critically is for characterization so that the choices they make in their tales will be meaningful. You are not totally wrong in speculating that the narrator is guilty of some sins, after all, it is subjective like you said.
In response to Shannon's comment; I was intrigued by the narrator's persona as well. The persona of the narrator that Chaucer creates is filled with certainty and doubt at the same time which I find interesting. The narrator examines the pilgrims and claims to know the most minute details about their lives from the clothes they wear and the mannerisms they have. However when the narrator attempts to draw final conclusions about some of the pilgrims, he is unsure in his assumptions.
Interesting Sunday morning reading. I'm seriously enjoying your responses to the prompt and especially to each other!A couple of comments: for those of you who believe the Knight is guilty of murder, in the strictest sense of the word, you may be right. However, church and state were one, and don't forget that wars were fought in the name of God, so in a sense, slaying one's enemies was doing God's work. (Sound like any current day zealots?).Remember, also, that these were not specific characters Chaucer was flaying, but more likely composites based on his experiences.Happy posting!
No. The speaker’s main focal point when addressing the other pilgrims of the group is obviously greed, money and courtly love, however he never outright disapproves of the immoral activities disclosed, and refers to their positions of society in superlative terms. He even presents himself as one of the group using the first person plural point of view when discussing the group as a whole. A reader, especially from Chaucer’s time, would only like to believe that the speaker is being ironic and mocking of the corrupt individuals when really he could be immoral himself accepting the other's behavior.
To Anna, I have to disagree with your indication that Chaucer is playing God. First of all, Chaucer is taking on a persona in this tale; a persona that is neither judgmental nor subjective. The speaker never declares any of the actions of the group as wrong. Also, are you implying God is judgmental? Also, I believe The General Prologue has no moral purpose: He simply describes the flaws of a group he claims to be part of. Although they are going on a pilgrimage, which is meant to be a journey of penance and grievance, none of the characters make an attempt to fix their immoral ideals, or even acknowledge them.
To Chynna, once again, how can the speaker be playing a god-like role when his tone remains static and approving of the immoral actions. What moral lessons do you assimilate from the Prologue? I see no direct moral lesson to obtain by what you said. Like any other story, the speaker merely presents a set of characters with a set of flaws. I think the immoral actions of the church are wrong, yet what lessons do you learn?
You can certainly find moral lessons in The Prologue of Canterbury tales, but then again you can find moral lessons in almost anything if you look hard enough. I don't fell that there is any intentional lesson because the immoral acts committed by the pilgrims are, at this point, without consequence. You cannot learn a lesson if the immoral acts are committed and nothing happens. What knowledge do you gain from that?Chaucer seems to be accepting of most of the pilgrims' flaws, choosing to look the other way. He will add statements such as "or so he seemed" after a praising comment to alert readers to the fact that there is more to this person than the image they try to display to the public. Certainly the church officials and the wealthy are under more of a spotlight and display more immoral tendencies. Chaucer is much less approving of the church officials' behavior but doesn't dare say this directly. This hinders the reader's learning from these mistakes because Chaucer will not label them as wrong. We discover that people are too afraid of the church's power to speak out against their immoral acts. They get away with it.
In response to Brittany (Mok, not myself. No matter how many times I use her name in a conversation I never get used to the way it sounds) and to Ms. Lounsbury too, I suppose: I agree with Ms. Lounsbury that war and murder are not the same thing. The Catholics believe that war is acceptable if there is a [good] reason for it. And as the knight was fighting for God, his success on the battlefield would have been honorable. Besides in war [especially in these times] you don't have much of an option, if you refuse to kill then you stand no chance of survival. So you could also get off from a self preservation standpoint. And being a knight doesn't make him any more immoral than being a soldier makes a person immoral by today's standards. It would almost make him even more noble because he was regarded as a hero. But I do wonder if the knight has hidden flaws that are yet to be seen as of the prologue. Nobody's perfect.