Can you give me a brief character analysis of the clerk?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Clerk fancies himself a philosopher, but in reality he has a pretty lackluster understanding of any philosophical concept. He misunderstands or is too dense to interpret many things. For example, at the end of his tale, the Clerk says,

But now, for love of the good wife of Bath,
Whose life and all whose sex may God maintain
In mastery high, or else it were but scathe,
I will with joyous spirit fresh and green
Sing you a song to gladden you, I ween;

The "wife of Bath" whom the Clerk lauds here is hardly an example of Godly goodness. She has a voracious sexual appetite, and as critic D. W. Robertson Jr. (Preface to Chaucer) calls her, "the archetypal fallen woman."

The Clerk is a pseudo-intellectual. He has spent more money on books than on clothes, and he looks as pretty poorly. But having the books is not akin to understanding the concepts. His fancy words do not convey much. He is a dust-cover that conceals a pulp novel.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial