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The Canterbury Tales - The General Prologue: Basing your answer on two portraits from The General Prologue, discuss Chaucer's presentation of characters associated with the church.

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Introduction

Ruth Norris The General Prologue: Basing your answer on two portraits from The General Prologue, discuss Chaucer's presentation of characters associated with the church. In your answer you should: * Explain your own views of the characters you have chosen * Look closely at the effects of language and imagery * Comment on what the portraits suggest about attitudes towards the church in Chaucer's time Throughout The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer portrays religious characters overall in a very negative light. Two such characters are the Friar and the Monk who both use their positions in the church for their own personal gain, neglecting their orders and taking advantage of the laity. Chaucer clearly realises the corruption of the church at this time and his portrayals of the Monk and the Friar demonstrate this. I see the Monk as a hearty man who, though he goes against his religious order, does not commit great sins beyond seeking pleasure and wishing to explore the world outside the monastery. ...read more.

Middle

Also, "many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable", reiterating the fact that he was not poor; he should not have had a single horse let alone many fine horses. The Monk's main divergence from his order is in his love of material possessions, outwardly expressed in his appearance, he is fine and prosperous looking, with "his sleves pufiled at the hond with gris, and that the fineste of the lond" going against the monastic rules of Saint Benedict and with his elaborate pin, a sign of personal adornment. He is "a lord full fat and in good point," clearly not having sacrificed his life to poverty. Monks were supposed to remain in their monasteries with a daily routine of prayer, meditation, study and labour, all conducted in silence which he clearly did not obey. Unlike monks, Friars were allowed to leave the monastery but they were supposed to do so to serve the community. The friar should have begged for money and preached to the laity but Chaucer's Friar only associates with the wealthy, "Ful wel beloved and famulier was he/ With frankelyns over al in his contree". ...read more.

Conclusion

The Parson, portrayed later in The General Prologue provides a strong contrast with the friar as a man who performs his duties honourably and looks after his congregation. Chaucer obviously respects the Parson; he is a "good man...also a lerned man...benign he was, and wonder diligent,/ And in adversitee ful pacient." All these qualities are highly regarded and admirable, and none are shared with the Friar. The portrait of the Parson increases the impression that the church was corrupt at this time by giving an example of what was expected. Additionally, the parson is the only religious character presented as truly devout which suggests that the majority of the church was corrupt. Chaucer introduces religious characters in The General Prologue as unworthy and dishonest, particularly the Friar who deceived and neglected his people. He uses the religious characters on the pilgrimage to comment on the church, which had great power in his time. Great attention is paid to the appearance of the characters, particularly of the Monk, which highlights the materialism present, a great contrast to the poverty vowed in the religious orders. ...read more.

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