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Geoffrey Chaucer and Canterbury Takes - Essay Example

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The general prologue is structured in a very interesting way: it is set up to provide clear and present contrasts between different members of medieval society, to portray the good and the bad of each particular class. For instance, the lower classes are represented by two highly contrasting figures, the reeve and the ploughman…
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Download file to see previous pages This is highly contrasted to the Reeve, who was also of the same class as the Ploughman, but very different in character. Unlike the Ploughman, the Reeve does not produce anything, but only “manages” affairs, moving food from one person to the other, and it is implied that he does so with an iron fist, causing the people he managed to “be as afraid of him as of death” (601, 607). It is also interesting that the Reeve and the Miller, two of the less popular amongst the lower class, are introduced together. Chaucer creates the same dichotomy in the religious class between the evil Pardoner and the good Parson, but interestingly leaves nobles with only the positive impression given by the Knight (though the Prioress, who would be of roughly equal station but a different estate, could be considered the negative upper-class counterpoint). Chaucer creates a cross-section of society showing the good and the bad of each estate. As in the General Prologue, the tales paint two pictures of Christianity as practiced by the members of the Church. By far the worse representative of the Christian Faith is the Pardoner. For one thing, he is simply a corrupt character, clearly not living by the morals that he should – he drinks too much, has a voice that “sounds like a goat” (690). ...
His tale is also damning – interestingly, though he is supposed to be of a religious calling, he provides a crude folk tale full of innuendo. The prioress also fails to live up to a Christian standard, has too much money, and seems more concerned with initiating “cheer” and upholding her “courtesy,” which should be concerns of the nobility, not the religious classes (134, 139). These two relatively materialistic figures are contrasted with the parson, who throughout is portrayed in the best light. Chaucer creates a dichotomy between failed Christians who are overly concerned with material well-being, and good Christians who are poor but pure at heart. Marriage in the Middle Ages was an incredibly interesting institution, and the Canterbury Tales do an excellent job analyzing several aspects of them. Probably one of the clearest expositions on marriage comes from the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, where she outlines the many marriages she has had. One of the things that becomes apparent through this prologue is that marriage, as an institution, is not inherently connected to love in any real way, but is also seen as necessary for upholding the human condition, such as having sexual relationships, raising families and so on. Her tale also serves as an interesting incitement of marriage. In the tale, a Knight rapes a women, a crime punishable by death, but will have his sentence lifted if he can find what women truly want. The interesting answer to this is that women want “sovereignty” not only of themselves, but also upon their husbands (1045-48). Though in many ways throughout this work this “sovereignty” is treated as power over their husbands, the final images of this tale indicate that what women truly want is power to control their own bodies – ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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