In the "Canterbury Tales" do you think that Chaucer was trying to point how religious leaders are liars?In the "Canterbury Tales" do you think that Chaucer was trying to point how...

In the "Canterbury Tales" do you think that Chaucer was trying to point how religious leaders are liars?

In the "Canterbury Tales" do you think that Chaucer was trying to point how religious leaders are liars?

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Absolutely!  He may not be saying that they are "liars" in particular, but he absolutely thinks of them as corrupt and deceptive.

Take all the members of the clergy on the trip.  The ONLY one he approves of is the Parson.  He also approves of the Plowman (a farmer, not a clergyman, but he IS the Parson's brother.  Kuddos to their parents). 

All others have some hint of deception or not following the rules.

Nun--seems flirtatious and too much involved with appearances to be holy.

Monk--materialistic with his hunting dogs and horses, fancy clothes, and no time for studying the good book and the rules of St. Benet who said monks should be impoverished, chaste, and obedient to God. 

Friar--seems to be bribing young ladies to give him sexual favors and then finds them husbands. He knows the taverns and inns better than the poor whom he is supposed to be serving.

Pardoner--cons people into buying holy relics that are frauds--the pillowcase he said was Mary's veil,  the cloth he said was part of Peter's sail, etc.

Summoner--appears to be a drunkard and his carbuncle-covered face suggested in Chaucer's time that he was a lewd and lecherous individual.  He also puts on airs with his very limited Latin.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chaucer's time, corruption in the Catholic Church was quite prevalent as the practice of selling indulgences became one of deception and greed.  Also, because the second son of aristocrats would not inherit the property and wealth of his father, many times he would enter the next highest level of society, the religious life, simply for the social level rather than in answer to a vocation.

Chaucer satirizes this religious hypocrisy in such tales as that of the Monk, who is worldly and lusty as the narrator remarks. These traits are contrary to the religious vows of poverty and chastity.  For instance, the Monk has his robe luxuriously lined with fur, he enjoys worldly occupations such as hunting.  That he is familiar with women is certainly suggested in his tale.  Another example of religious hypocrisy exists in the Summoner's Tale in which indulgences and pardons are sold under false pretences. In Chaucer's time, such an offence was punishable by fines.

By exposing this hypocrisy with sardonic humor, Chaucer, like most satirists, draws attention to offences in the hope that society will rectify them. 

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chaucer is writing about the deception in all groups of people.  He also tries to show the hypocrisy of people and the way they justify their behavior through the way they interpret their faith and the Scriptures. 

"The Pardoner is the most cynical Christian, condemning the very behaviors that he indulges in and trying to sell salvation by way of the counterfeit icons and the signed certificates from the pope he carries with him. It was in fact the sort of fraud perpetuated by people like the Pardoner, as well as actions by angry reformers like Wycliffe to make religion accessible to the common people, that eventually led to the Protestant Reformationin the sixteenth century that weakened the Catholic Church’s powerful hold over Western thought..."

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chaucer definitely has a negative view of religious leaders, and characterizes them as hypocrite in "The Canterbury Tales". When Chaucer speaks of the Monk in the prologue, who is supposed to be a humble servant of the church living in poverty, he is described as wearing "fine gray fur, the finest in the land" (186). This is Chaucer's criticism on the opulence of the church. The Friar is also describes as someone who "hope[s] to make a decent living" (228). Whether he believes that they are liars or hypocrites, Chaucer surely has disdain for certain religious leaders.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think Chaucer had multiple purposes in writing the Canterbury Tales, some of which we will never know!  He clearly was disenchanted with the Catholic church and uses a lot of satire in his tales, definitely.  One way many authors "got away" with criticizing the church was through satire, which involves poking fun at serious subjects.  Chaucer is no exception.  I do not believe that he had very specific purposes but that he wanted to merely bring attention to some of the inadequacies and wrongs in the church.

arjun | Student

Chaucer is not against the religious leaders but he is against their activities which are exploited with the touch of soft humour. He talks about Monk, Friar, Nun etc.He is a realist and whatever he finds there describes before the audience with the purposing of correcting the both. Such illegal entry becomes the cause of great violence. As he describes about Mok, his duty is to serve religion but he waists his time in hunting and fond of the hounds. He talks about the Friar who is ready to bow the people for confession but he snatches gold from them under the name of religion.