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How does Chaucer reveal his attitude towards the Church through his portrayal of the Prioress, the Monk and the Friar?

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Introduction

How does Chaucer reveal his attitude towards the Church through his portrayal of the Prioress, the Monk and the Friar? The way that Chaucer portrays the ecclesiasticals proves to be a stark contrast to how he portrays his first pilgrim, the Knight. He speaks highly of the Knight but with an air of mockery and distaste towards his three ecclesiasticals; the Prioress, the Monk and the Friar. The way that Chaucer tells of his religious pilgrims could be seen as a reflection of his attitude towards the Church. It seems that as Chaucer progresses through the ecclesiasticals, his portrayal of them seems far more extreme, and seems to go further from expectation, this is perhaps because he is easing the reader into what are his real attitudes towards the Church. Fashion and appearance can be seen as a reflection of the characters personalities. The Prioress, in particular, attempts to be fashionable and attractive in all aspects of her life. ...read more.

Middle

Although the Prioress is immediately portrayed as being different from how a Nun is expected to be, Chaucer is not too harsh on her. "...she was cleped madame Eglentine" line 121. Her name was a fashionable name at the time meaning 'Wild Rose', but the name is better suited to a romantic heroine than a saint. Throughout the tale of the Prioress there are further links to romanticism. Chaucer speaks of a gold broach worn by the Nun which has written on it "Amor Vincit Omnia" translated to 'Love conquers all'. This is quite inappropriate for a Prioress who has vowed to live for the Church and who has, supposedly, sacrificed all her desires. Not only is she portrayed as being a romantic but also of yearning to be seen as feminine and a lady of the court. Chaucer says of how "hir smiling was ful simple and coy" which suggests she is trying to be perceived as attractive, this reinforces the theme of romanticism; it is as if she is looking for love. ...read more.

Conclusion

To call his ecclesiasticals such things is clearly inappropriate considering what we are being told of them. Chaucer seems to show a general lack of respect for these characters. This could perhaps be paralleled by a lack of respect that Chaucer may have felt towards the Church. Chaucer reveals his attitudes towards the Church through his portrayal of the Prioress, the Monk and the Friar in a number of ways. The fashions adorned by the ecclesiasticals show how they don't want to be seen as traditional but modern and fashionable. As well as this, there appearances, in terms of looks, are unexpected. In all aspects of what Chaucer tells us of them they tend to differ from what would be expected of them, this sets the reader up for the mockery that flows through the tales. The mockery highlights all of the features that Chaucer seems to dislike about the ecclesiastical pilgrims. Chaucer seems to show particular distaste for these characters and it can be seen as revealing in terms of his attitude towards the Church. ...read more.

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