The Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer
frame story • A frame story is a story that includes any number of different narratives within it.
frame story • On a pilgrimage from London to Canterbury, travelers tell their tales. They begin there journey at the Tabard Inn. There are some nine in twenty going.
Pilgramage • Pilgramages were a popular pastime in The Middle Ages. People went for these for 3 possible reasons: • Improve their chance of salvation • Gain the healing touch supposedly found in the relics of saints • To atone (make amends) for their sins
Knight • Fought throughout the world • Fifteen victories in mortal battle • Well-respected • Modest, considerate and well mannered. • He is the ideal of chivalry. • The Knight is the most socially prominent person on the journey. • On the pilgrimage to give thanks for his victories.
Nun – Prioress • Prioress of a convent – in charge of all the other nuns • Acted with dignity and sensitivity • Her emphasis on her possessions (which includes her 3 dogs) suggest that she secretly longs for a more worldly life. • Known as Madame Eglantyne • More concerned about luxuries than her responsibilites to her order. • Her French wasn’t all that great] • She had perfect manners. • Wore coral bracelet – It shows she in interested in love, though as a nun she should not be. • Would weep if she saw a mouse in a trap • “Counterfeited a courtly kind of grace” • Wore golden brooch of brightest sheen – engraved (translated to “Love Conquers All”. Is this normal for a nun to wear jewelry?
REGARDING THE NUN:A nun is a woman who lives in a convent and takes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; a prioress is in charge of the nuns. As Mother Superior of a convent, a prioress is under oath not to leave her charges. Notice that the Prioress is not a conventional nun. Her swearing by St. Loy (the patron saint of goldsmiths) is ironic because this saint was known for his refusal to swear. Also, she wears a coral charm on her arm. In Chaucer’s time, coral was considered a defense against worldly temptations, as well as a love charm. It is ironic in either sense – either she’s looking for love (which a nun should not be doing) or she’s trying to ward off worldly temptations (yet she does not deny herself luxuries, such as a nice veil and cloak).
Monk • Had a shiney. bald head • Prominent eyeballs • Liked a fat swan best (cooked with their feathers on • Wore a wrought gold pin – Shaped like a lovers knot • Liked hunting –spared no expense • Fine grey fur on his sleeves
Monk • Is a member of a religious order who has taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. • Ironically, this Monk rides a fine horse, wears rich clothing/jewelry and enjoys good food. • It is also ironic that he is fat because according to his vow of poverty, a monk is meant to suffer for the world’s sins; not enjoy the temptations
REGARDING THE OXFORD CLERIC/CLERK:In order to enter a medieval university, students had to join a minor religious order of the Church. Once out of school, they were expected to seek secular employment outside the Church. The Cleric’s books would have cost a small fortune, because the printing press had not yet been invented and books were still copied by hand.
Oxford Cleric • Undernourished • Chaucer plays on the stereotype of the poor student • Spent borrowed money on books • Lived mainly for knowledge and understanding • Did not talk often,but when he did, it was with great dignity and moral virtue. • Next to the Knight, he is one of the most admired people on the pilgrimage.
Doctor • Greedy man who cheated people with the help of the apothecary • He knew astronomy and believed the 12 signs of the zodiac affected the body • Very well dressed due to the profits he made on prescribing drugs that didn’t work. • Could quote all the medical authorities, but knew nothing about the Bible.
Wife of Bath • socially conscious expert on fashion and romance • Has to be the first to the alter • Always wearing fine clothes, indicating that she cares more about statue then spirituality. • Her special talent was her knowledge of all the remedies of love • Had been married 5 times and gone on 5 pilgrimages.
Parson • a virtuous priest who worked hard to help people • Very poor but was rich in holy thoughts and works. • Would rather give his money to poor parishioners • His life was a perfect example of the true Christian priest • Sought no pomp and glory ini his dealings
Parson • Could have run off and sing masses to make money • Would visit his parishioners at their homes, sharing his money with him
Pardoner • Long hair was a violation of the rule that men who worked for the church should wear their hair “tonsured” –short, with a shaved spot at the top. This was a symbol of humility.
Pardoner • Sold indulgences and fake holy relics for a profit to those charged with sin • Chaucer implies he is motivated by greed and “sings to win silver from the crowd”. • He is the most corrupt of the churchmen. • Going on this trip for all the wrong reasons
Pardoner • His hair hangs like rat tails-long yellow hair • He puts on airs by trying to ride in a fashionable style • Sold fake relics • He has a voice like a goat • He has buldging eyeballs • All are unappealing! Blagh! • The Pardoner reads a lesson, tells a story, and sings an Offertory well. Chaucer implies that the Pardoner is motivated by greed and sings to “win silver from the crowd
REGARDING THE PARDONER: • In use of the term gentle, Chaucer means for it to portray the Pardoner not as a kind person but rather as a member of the upper classes. • Long hair was a violation of the rule that men who worked for the Church should wear their hair tonsured (short, with a shaved spot at the top, as a symbol of humility). Notice that the Pardoner’s hair is out of keeping with this rule; a symbol of how far he strays from Church doctrine. • In religions terms, relics are the remains (bones, hair, garments, etc.) of a holy person. Saying a prayer with the relic in hand was thought to bring an indulgence or limited respite from the pains of purgatory after death. Some relics were fake, but believers willingly bought them and provided a steady income to the sellers.