Write a 750-word essay on the following topic:
Compare the different functions of, attitudes towards, and/or adherence to Christian values in two or three of the pilgrims’ tales. Consider ways in which each pilgrim’s life role and appearance compares or contrasts with his or her actions and the story he or she tells.
The Canterbury Tales is one of the milestones of English literature. Its author, Geoffrey Chaucer stands side by side with giants of the literary world such as Shakespeare, Austen and Dickens. In the same way as Austen pokes fun at the people in her time, Chaucer also does the same thing, however in a subtler way. He uses the pilgrims to show the different characters who, and reasons why people went on pilgrimages. Through his characters, for example the prioress and the pardoner, Chaucer shows how worldly and dishonest the Catholic Church was.
A prioress is expected to live a life of humility and charity in a nunnery. However Chaucer’s prioress, who calls herself Madam Eglantine, does not display humility, instead she is shallow and worldly. When she eats at the table she ‘never from her lips let morsels fall, Nor dipped her finger deep in sauce,’ (4) Although a prioress should set an example of manners she seems to be overly fastidious. This shows that Madam Eglantine wants people to observe how genteel she is compared to the other pilgrims. Chaucer informs the reader that ‘She was so charitable and piteous’ (4) yet then shows examples of her charity to her lap dogs. As a prioress Madam Eglantine would have been expected to supervise the alms giving to the poor out of her Christian duty, yet she feeds and nurses her lap dogs. Chaucer does not give one example of the prioress helping and caring for the poor. From the character of the prioress the reader is able to see how members of the church could abuse their position for worldly reasons.
The pardoner sold church indulgences, which said that people’s sins were forgiven. He also sells fake relics such as ‘a pillowcase The which, he said, was Our True Lady’s veil:’ (19). The pardoner is a dishonest man who admits that he only sells the indulgences and relics for the money. You would expect a man who was in such a respected