The Canterbury Tales Questions and Answers
by Geoffrey Chaucer

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How does Chaucer view the monk in The Canterbury Tales?

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luannw eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Chaucer has a low opinion of the monk, as he does most of the clergy.  Chaucer uses a subtle sarcasm to express his dislike.  He describes the monk as liking to spend his time hunting and riding fine horses.  He describes the monk as being finely dressed with fur-trimmed robes.  Monks were supposed to be concerned with serving God and other people, not with hunting and keeping good horses.  Monks took a vow of poverty but this monk's clothes aren't what a poor member of the clergy should wear.  When the monk is telling his tale, which is really a series of tales, the knight and the host finally have to tell him to stop because his tales are depressing.  Before he began to tell his tales, he told the others that he was telling them these stories to enlighten them.  Again, Chaucer is subtle in his sarcasm portraying the monk as having a high opinon of himself.  The monk thinks that the listeners will hang on his every word.

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amy-lepore eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Not very positively, I'm afraid.  Chaucer only wholly approves of the Knight, the Parson, and the Plowman in his Prologue.

The monk wears fine clothing and disregards the oath of the holy life he has pledged himself to living.  He is more concerned with worldly things like hunting and eating and dressing well.  In fact, Chaucer calls him a "monk out of his cloister" who is not "worth an oyster". 

The monk keeps nice horses and fancy greyhounds for hunting purposes.  He dresses extremely well and is very fat.  In other words, he lives more richly than a holy man should, he squanders money that the poor could be using by supporting animals, and eats more than is necessary to keep himself alive and healthy.

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ujjwala | Student

Portrait of the Monk

Chaucer's comic faculty finds full hilarity when he surveys the shortcomings of human beings.  Ironical humor occurs when we read how Monk's foppish clothes, the bells in the bridle of his horse, his worldliness and disdain towards traditions and morality defy his religious status in the society.  He keeps a large number of horses in his stable.  When he rides a horse, the jingling of the horse's bell can be heard at a distance. He finds the monastic rules out of date and he does not wish to drive himself mad by studying too much. He did not want to work on his own as was commanded by St. Augustine; rather he lived a life of luxury. He should probably not have been a hunter, an overfed man who was always expensively-dressed in fur and gold jewelry, and was a cultivator of expensive habits.

slauritzen | Student
As with most of the religious figures on the journey, Chaucer satirizes the monk. He is not one of the most despicable pilgrims, but he certainly is not a good monk either. This is one of the first times we see that the narrator is naive when he refers to the monk as "one of the finest sort" (169). He also says he "agreed and said his views were sound" (187) when referring to the monk's attitude of picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to follow and which to ignore. He actually is described in very similar ways to the Prioress as one who spends money in the wrong places. As a monk he should be concerned with the poor and have taken a vow of poverty, but he spends his money on hunting accoutrements as well as his attire. "His sleeves were garnished at the hand/ With fine gray fur, the finest in the land" (198-200). Chaucer uses these descriptions in the "General Prologue" alone to show how little he respects the monk and how much of a hyprocrite he is. His satire reflects the changes he wants to see happen is the church of his time.