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"The pilgrims summarise the noblest ideals and the basest practises" Discuss this statement.

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Introduction

"The pilgrims summarise the noblest ideals and the basest practises" Discuss this statement. The prologue to the Canterbury Tales contains portraits of a multitude of characters, from the most pious to the downright wicked as Chaucer presents characters from all walks of life. His tales are a mixture of the noble, such as the Knight, the Parson and the Plowman who are juxtaposed with the ignoble Friar, Summoner and Pardonner. By interspersing this dichotomy of characters with a wealth of more 'in-between' ones Chaucer presents us with a refreshingly original mixture of humanity. The Knight is the first of Chaucer's pilgrims and therefore becomes the character against whom subsequent pilgrims will be compared and found to be flawed. It is fitting that it is he who is described first as he is the character of highest status on this particular pilgrimage . The Knight is an ideal character, a defender of the faith, courageous, modest "and though that he were worthy, he was wise/ And of his post as meeke as is a maide." Despite being a warrior he is meek bowing to his religious calling. Chaucer, in his satirical way, ensures that we are aware that being a knight is synonymous with being worthy as he uses the word to describe him no less that four times. It is through his belief in the five knightly values "chivalrie, trouthe, and honour, freedom and courtesie" that the Knight gains this accolade as chivalry, with its rules and obligations were forefront in the medieval mind. ...read more.

Middle

In reality such men are as rare as saints but their ideals are readily accepted. All three characters serve as the measuring stick for other pilgrims who more often than not fall short of these flawless standards. There are, however, some characters so low and repugnant that they represent the dichotomy of these faultless men. Three such characters include the Friar, the Pardonner and the Summoner, who are bound together by their immorality and abhorrent lifestyles. The Pardonner and the Summoner are the last two portraits in the prologue and perhaps two of the most interesting. They appear to be not only partners in work but also in a homosexual relationship. The bond is strong and they are open about their affections; on the journey they sing a love song together, and rather loudly too! "Ful loude he soong 'come hider, love to me!/ this the Summoner bar to him a stif burdoun." They are both quite similar in their visage, both being relatively ugly, and yet at the same time they have something about them of the fascination of the incongruous in children's fairy tales. A Summoner was a person appointed to bring the ecclesiastical courts to those who transgressed against the laws of the church. The position offered many chances for corruption and abuse of power, and we see that this Summoner readily indulges in doing so. ...read more.

Conclusion

Unlike any other of the clergy, there is a fundamental evil at he core of the Friar, which is made worse by his ability to disguise it. Perhaps the most incriminating indictment of the Friar's practices and even of the Friar himself can be found in these lines: "It is nat honeste, it may nat avaunce, For to deelen with no swich poraille, But al with riche and selleres of vitaille. And over al, ther as profit sholde arise, Curteis he was, and lowely of servyse. Ther nas no man nowher so virtuous" This extract demonstrates well Chaucer's irony. He shows us that the Friar despises the poor, they are simply rabble to him despite the fact that it is to these very people he should devote himself. This hubristic side of the Friar is well hidden however, especially if there is a chance to make money. In this telling portrait Chaucer appears artless, never sure of the connotations of his words. The na�ve manner of the narrator, however, only highlights the repugnant nature of the Friar and ignites a sense of disgust in the reader. Through these six characters Chaucer presents the twin dichotomies of the noblest ideals and basest practices; they are the embodiment of good and evil. In fact their personalities are so extreme that they are closer to the abstract personification of their own ideals, as found in morality plays, that they are real people and thus despite their truly cunning creation they lose a sense of humanity. 1 Girles meaning both young men and women ...read more.

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