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How does satire in Chaucer's General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales work within a...

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roja99 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 28, 2013 at 1:29 PM via iOS

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How does satire in Chaucer's General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales work within a subtle frame of evaluation of the pilgrims. 

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wshoe | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted June 29, 2013 at 1:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Chaucer uses satire in the descriptions of the pilgrims in the "General Prologue" of The Canterbury Tales to reveal corruption in the Church that was prevalent in society.  Many members of the clergy used their positions for personal gain.  This can be seen in his cast of characters.  Of all the pilgrims associated with the Church, the Parson is the only one who is honorable.  

One of the corrupt pilgrims is the Monk.  The Monk disregards the rules that govern monasteries.  The narrator is referencing this book of rules when he states: "But this same text he held not worth an oyster;/And I said his opinion was right good" (18-19). The narrator really doesn't agree with the Monk's opinion that the rules are outdated. He is using sarcasm to make his point that the Monk chooses not to follow the rules because they hamper his lifestyle of hunting, owning possessions, and eating fine foods.  

Another member of the Church Chaucer satirizes is the Friar.  The narrator states that "He was the finest beggar of his house" (42).  This statement has double meaning.  The Friar is a successful beggar because he makes such a good living begging from the wealthy people in his district.  Instead of helping the poor, he uses this income for himself.  In this way he is also a "fine" beggar because he does own expensive clothes that he wears on arbitration days. Friars were not allowed to mediate for profit, so this is another way he is a corrupt member of the Church.  The Friar allows sinners to pay him for forgiveness when they are unable to show remorse for their sins.  

Chaucer reveals a changing society in The Canterbury Tales.  While he does focus more on members of the clergy, he also gives commentary on society through other characters like the Squire.  Unlike the Knight, his father, the Squire is interested in battle because of the attention he receives from the ladies.  

 

 

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