What did the Friar get in return for pardons he granted?

2 Answers

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The Friar receives money in the form of silver for granting penance. He will, it is said, "grant penance" whenever he knows he can get a "pittance," meaning a fee for the service. In a typically wry passage, Chaucer says that to the Friar (and, perhaps, not just this friar) "money given/Is sign that any man has been well shriven." In other words, whether or not a person is earnest in their confession of sins, a small fee can gain them forgiveness, no matter, it seems, how bad the sin was. "Therefore," it is concluded:

instead of weeping and of prayer,
Men ought to give some silver to the poor freres.

Contrition, it seems, is best shown by giving a gift to the avaricious Friar to intercede on one's behalf. Overall, the Friar is a greedy, "wanton" character, and certainly not consistent with the bahavior one would expect of a member of an order. 

missbc's profile pic

missbc | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

"Sweetly he heard his penitents at shrift

With pleasant absolution, for a gift.

He was an easy man in penance-giving

Where he could hope to make a decent living;

It's a sure sign whenever gifts are given

To a poor Order that a man's well shriven,

And  should he give enough he knew in verity

The penitent repented in sincerity.

For many a fellow is so hard of heart

He cannot weep, for all his inward smart.

Therefore instead of weeping and of prayer

One should give SILVER for a a poor Friar's care."