General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer
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Describe critiques Chaucer makes of specific characters or institutions in the prologue of The Canterbury Tales.

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In the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer offers up a critique of the monk, who instead of being an ascetic, unworldly character, is actually a great lover of hunting, fine food, and drink.

In portraying the monk in this way, Chaucer is satirizing the medieval church, which was notorious for its corruption. The monk has certainly been corrupted by high living, so much so that he has no time for the rule of his order that monks should live simple lives devoted to hard work and prayer.

In fact, the monk has a hearty contempt for anything that requires him to follow monastic rules. He'd much rather be out and about with his horses or his fast greyhounds than stuck indoors all day dutifully following the rules laid down by “Austin,” that is to say, St. Augustine, the famous Christian bishop and theologian.

As well as his penchant for hunting and his enjoyment of the delights of the dinner table, the monk's worldliness and corruption are also illustrated by his taste for expensive clothing. The cuffs of his sleeves are lined with the finest fur, and he uses a fancy golden pin to fasten his hood. In every aspect of his outward appearance and behavior, the monk epitomizes everything that Chaucer sees as being wrong with the church.

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