How does Chaucer portray the Parson in The Canterbury Tales?
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In the General Prologue Chaucer portrays the monks as hypocritical individuals who live in a manner that directly conflicts with the teachings of the church. All of the monks' actions and decisions in the prologue represent a violation of the religious and monastic life. For example, the monks wear fine apparel. They cover themselves in fur and gold rather than simple, plain garments. The monk is also a hunter and does not devote time to religious activities such as study and prayer. Rather than living a humble life of sacrifice the monk lives a life filled with extravagance.
However, the Parson is a character who abides by the teachings of his faith. In the first few lines of his portrait, the audience discovers that he is a God fearing man who cares for the needs of his parishioners. He teaches them the doctrine of the church, which he too lives. He is an exemplary individual who demonstrates to the audience how a man of God should behave.
"There was a good man of religion, too,
A country parson, poor, I warrant you;
But rich he was in holy thought and work.
He was a learned man also, a clerk,
Who Christ's own gospel truly sought to preach;
Devoutly his parishioners would he teach.
Benign he was and wondrous diligent,
Patient in adverse times and well content"
Contrary to many of the other characters, Geoffrey Chaucer's Parson (from The Canterbury Tales) proves to be a truly good man. Having taken a vow of poverty, the Parson lives a very poor life (in regards to goods). While he does not possess worldly goods (which is part of his poverty), the Parson is a very rich man. He is rich based upon his religious beliefs and education. The Parson practices what he preaches by modeling the behavior he wishes in others. Nothing would stop him from visiting a parishioner, not rain, thunder, or illness. The narrator states that no better priest ever existed.
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