• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Of Vice and Virtue: Chaucer's Clergy

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Of Vice and Virtue: Chaucer's Clergy The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, depicts the class system and religion of the medieval period in which Chaucer lived in. The General population along with the ruling elites believed both religion and class was established by God, and thus it was largely gone unchallenged. This idea of God, establishing the class system gave way to high ranking members of society to be corrupt and dishonest. High members of the church like the Pardoner took advantage of naivety of the people to profit from the system of class and religion. The general population would give donations to Pardoners regardless of knowing if the money would be stolen, and not put to good use because they wanted to eventually go to heaven or be forgiven of their past committed sins. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, portrays two pilgrims divided by the class system: The Pardoner being a high ranking official, while the Parson was ranked a low level religious figure. In the beginning of the General Prologue five pilgrims are mentioned who are all connected to the Church one way or another, and in a way corrupt or not dedicated to their faith as they should be: The Monk, the Prioress, Nun, the summoner, the pardoner, the friar. The Parson who is the poorest of them all stands out as the only individual who is the most devout figure out of all the Church member pilgrims. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer uses the notion of religion and the class system to display the corrupt behavior by the elites, whilst the lower class is painted as being faithful. Emphasis will be put on the Pardoner and Parson in the following passages. The Pardoner status in the Church is a well respected position, consequently giving more power at his disposal equaling in higher access to wealth. The Pardoner takes advantage of the pilgrims, by tricking them into believing that the random items he has in his possession are actually "relics" from dead holy saints. ...read more.

Middle

He lets them touch these relics only after they have paid him a handsome sum of money, subsequently obtaining "a day he gat him more money than that the person gat in months twaye" (pg 187 line 705). The Pardoner tells a story with the underlying message of avarice being the root of all evil "goode men and wommen oo thing warne I you: if any wight be in this chriche now that hath doon sinne horrible, that he darn at for shame of it yishen"( Pg 237 Line 89), yet he himself, hypocritically, is an extremely avaricious man who attempts to cheat money off of the pilgrims by selling them fake relics. However, it is rather ironic that the Pardoner confesses in a rather relaxed way he is a fraud "Thus can I preche again that same vice which that I use, and that is avarice" (Pg 238 Line 140). The Pardoner's job is one that is known for its corruption and abuse of powers "but shortly myn entente I wol devise; I preach of no thing but for conveitise; therefore my theme is yit and evere was...." ( Pg 238 Line 135). The Pardoner certainly knows the powers bestowed upon him but, is not worried about being confronted over his unfaithfulness towards the people "But though myself be guilty in that sinne, Yit I can make other folk to twinne From avarice, and sore to repente" (Pg 238 Line 141). From these described scenarios the Pardoner can be considered a bold, greedy and cunning con artist who preaches against sins of deceit and avarice, yet practices both of them. The sole righteous member of the religious pilgrims is the Parson. The Parson actually practices what he preaches and forgives in the name of Christ, not for monetary purposes. He forgives all who seek his services, never placing himself above anyone else, and only seeks to fulfill his responsibilities to the Church. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is furthermore said to have been very poor, yet he is identified as being "riche he was of holy thought and werk"(Pg 182 Line 481). The Parson is the only holy pilgrim that is said to be poor. He is devoted to God and his congregation, and as a true clergyman, the Parson represents that part of the church that is not corrupt "But in his teching discreet and benigne, To drawn folk to hevene by fairnesse"(Pg 183 Line 520). The Parson sticks out like a parasite in the prologue, because of his virtuous life. It says in Chaucer prologue that he despises collecting taxes, which is the income on which he lives. Rather, the Parson gives his own belongings to the community instead of taking " unto his poore parisshens aboute Of his offring and eek of his substance" (Pg 182 Line 491). Unlike the other church officials, he is honest and devout to the church, which in a way makes him an outside or a parasite because of his good all round behavior. It is also said in the prologue to The Canterbury Tales that the Parson also practices what he preaches.. The Parson, is a prime example of what a clergyman should be. He practices what he preaches and is virtuous in all ways. The Parson represents what society should be, and the other clergy represent what most of society is. Chaucer obviously likes the Parson through his statements about him in the Parson's introduction. and the fact that the Parson is one of the few that have not yet abused their power, and he applauds the Parson for doing so. " A bettre preest I trowe ther nowher noon is'' (Pg 183 Line 526). In conclusion Chaucer shows through these two pilgrims what was wrong with the church and society in 14th Century medieval era. It is evident that money and power dictated faith in the medieval era. Officials with power tended to be corrupt whilst low level members of the church appeared to be honorable. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Geoffrey Chaucer section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. Write an essay on the variety of ways in which Chaucer treats the subject ...

    Love is also built on emotional truth and trust, Dorigen trusts her husband Arveragus with the truth, and in return he urges her to be true despite his suffering and even promises to still honour her and keep the deed a secret, "that folk of yow may demen harm or gesse".

  2. Literature and Dissent in the Age of Chaucer

    as he could actually be killed for such acts of treason, if the satire were to be picked up on. It seems that Chaucer is sharing a 'personal joke' with the people of his time who will be wise enough to choose to see through the statement, to get to what he is actually thinking.

  1. 'Langland's Piers Plowman greatly influenced The Canterbury Tales'. Discuss, with particular reference to estates ...

    yow al the condicioun Of ech of hem, so as it semed me, And whiche they weren, and of what degree, And eek in what array that they were inne. (I (A) 38-41). At the end he apologises for not having put the pilgrims in the correct order.

  2. Chaucer's Depiction of the Clergy.

    It is obvious that she does not pray everyday since Chaucer never mentions it and her service to God. She is not obedient to the Rule of order because she acts as an individual rather than a servant to God.

  1. Discuss differences in effect and structure created by the first-person narration in Dante's The ...

    The advantage in using first person narration to have his characters unknowingly set themselves up for criticism, is that he is able to expose their faults without appearing judgemental. It's tempting to question the motivation for Chaucer to write from the point of view of a woman in The Wife Of Bath.

  2. Chaucer's Pardoner's tale Analysis on lines 520 through to 602

    In both scenarios the link to loyalty and decency has altered to tie them together to fulfil the old mans promise of finding death. The pace is solid and rhyme continuous as it keeps the rigidity of poignant blows and references to death.

  1. Blasphemy in The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale

    The Pardoner's tale is appropriate for him to tell because he is the living example of the sins he is preaching against. He goes off, on a couple of instances, into sermon. His first warning is, money is the root of all evil; the reader knows that he is greedy and this immediately proves him to be a hypocrite.

  2. Remind yourself of the portraits of the Prioress, the Monk and the Friar. Discuss ...

    Also her worst oath is by "St Eloy" who had a reputation for beauty and courtesy, which shows that she associates herself with these qualities. Chaucer therefore sees the nun as a charming impostor whose social ambitions lead her to an absurd confusion of purposes.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work