I often have my students try to come up with modern counterparts for those in the Canterbury Tales--a simliar assignment but much more limiting. I like this idea better because it allows for a broader selection of characters from occupations not known to Chaucer.
Perhaps like Tom Wolfe in Bonfire of the Vanities, Chaucer would satirize the media--the good reporter who is after the sensational story no matter who is hurt or even if the story is true.
Most likely TV evangelists would come under Chaucer's scrutiny with their emphasis on sending money.
Modern politicians who run on platforms of home and family, but who have mistresses or frequent prostitutes might also be a possibility.
But Chaucer included characters other than hypocrites. He has the parson and the parson's brother and the honorable knight. Perhaps teachers who work so hard for so little respect might be included.
To me, the main idea behind this work is that Chaucer wanted to comment on various kinds of problems and issues that he saw in his society. I think that he might like to look at some of the following kinds of people if he were living today:
- A sports star. These are people that we tend to look up to in our society. Yet they often act in ways that are not at all admirable (and we still look up to them).
- A politician. These people are supposed to be representing us and working to help us. But they are often selfish and power hungry.
- A working mother. An issue in our society today is what we expect women to be. We expect them to make money now, but we still expect them to do most of the housework and we tend not to respect them as much as men.
So each of them would illustrate a problem (the first two) or an issue (the last) that is important in our society.
Chaucer might also consider the following modern-day figures:
1. A member of the media (newscaster)--they are often parodied in our society, and they possess quite a bit of power in regards to national and world affairs.
2. A religious leader of some sort (pastor of a megachurch, a bishop, an imam, etc.)--Chaucer would most likely still be interested in examining religious hypocrisy and the sway that religious leaders have upon their followers.
3. A plastic surgeon--the Western world seems to have such a penchant for beautiful exteriors, and the plastic surgeon would be a modern version of Chaucer's physician, someone who keeps himself in perfect physical condition but who disregards his soul's maintenance. We often see plastic surgeons who look good and who make a living from making others look good but who neglect turning their figurative scalpels inward.
I love this post! This is really thought provoking and I might use it as an essay question for my senior class the next time I teach The Canterbury Tales.
I think Chaucer would definitely use a priest undergoing scandal because of his comments on the Church. Perhaps Christian extremists would work, too, as they preach about Jesus' teachings to the most fundamental degree yet hate so many groups of people and commit violent acts to express their beliefs.
I also think he'd have a field day with "reality" television. He'd find it disgusting that people are famous nowadays for basically partying and making a spectacle of themselves.
He might even comment on a tea partier. That I'd like to read!
1. Chaucer's tales are set within the framework of the Catholic Church, so he would probably satirize those scandalous priests who were involved with the altar boys.
2. Having satirized one character who was always pocketing money, a lobbyist might be a good target for satire.
3. A used car salesman could be another hypocrite to add to the list.