What in your opinion is Chaucers view point regarding the social,economic and religious institutions of which his characters in the [cont]CANTERBURY TALES are representatives?

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luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The social classes represented in the General Prologue are, for the most part, the aristocracy (the Knight and his son, the Squire), the clergy (Prioress, Monk, Friar, Parson, and a few nuns and others), the tradesmen (Merchant, Yeoman, Franklin, Skipper, etc. -there are several), and a few who almost fall between classes such as the Pardoner and the Summoner who work for the church but are not ordained.  Finally, there are pilgrims such as the Wife of Bath who don't fall into any clear category.  Based on his descriptions of characters, either in the General Prologue, or in the prologues to the individual tales, it's is usually easy to determine how Chaucer felt about his pilgrims.  He liked the Knight. He admired him and his description is filled with positive words.  Even though he talks about the Squire's youthful dalliances with women, the impression is that Chaucer liked the Squire, too.  Therefore, it seems Chaucer was favorable toward the aristocracy.  With with the exception of the Parson and a few bland references to minor nuns and priests in the tales, Chaucer is very unfavorable in his descriptions of members of the clergy.  The Prioress is overly concerned with appearances, manners, her dogs, and what she ate.  She was not described as being concerned for the poor or needy.  The Monk and the Friar, too, had displaced concerns.  The Friar is downright loose in his morality.  Even the Summoner and Pardoner, who aren't clergy but work for the church, are described very negatively. Chaucer liked the Parson because the Parson concerned himself with people's needs and not his own.  It's safe to conclude that Chaucer did not care for the clergy in general.  Chaucer seems a bit mixed in his opinion of the tradesmen.  He isn't too negative with them, but they all have their faults that he identifies.  The Merchant, for example, hides the fact that he is in debt, the Lawyer acted like he was busier than he truly was, and so on.  The Wife of Bath, while possessing some negative characteristics such as not liking it if someone got ahead of her in church, was such a strong woman that it's clear Chaucer admired that quality.

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