illustration of a clergyman with Canterbury cathedral behind him

The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Start Free Trial

Which tales from The Canterbury Tales are most useful for exploring its historical and religious context, particularly the influence of the Bible?

I'm writing a contextual analysis of The Canterbury Tales in its relationship to the religious views at the time and how the accessibility of the Bible influenced a wide range of people.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chaucer uses multiple characters from The Canterbury Tales to critique the widespread corruption and disorganization of the church. 

The Monk's Tale

Featuring a monk who is nothing like one would imagine a monk to be, "The Monk's Tale" criticizes the hypocrisy and corruption of the church leadership.  The monk ignores the rules of monastic life and lives how he chooses.  This tale is mostly a criticism of the clergy, but could be used to address the accessibility of Christianity and the Bible.  If Chaucer is to be taken seriously, and clergy behavior like the monk in "The Monk's Tale" is widespread, that would impact Christianity's accessibility to the common man, only because the clergy are not actively teaching the Bible, because they are too self-absorbed with their own personal interests. 

The Friar's Tale

Like the monk, the friar seems less concerned about begging on behalf of the poor, and more concerned with wenching.  Chaucer's lovesick Friar is a poor example of clergy dedication.  Again, with all of this corruption in the church, it seems that little attention is being payed to redeeming lost souls through God's Holy Word.


Chaucer's works provide incredible insight into the mainstream views of the workings of the Church and Christianity.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial