The Prioress And Women Of Chaucers Time English Literature Essay

Geoffrey Chaucer ‘s The Canterbury Tales is a antic piece of literature which tells the narrative of a group of travellers who are on a pilgrim’s journey. The “ General Prologue ” to The Canterbury Tales is a long transition in which Chaucer describes the characters. The characters ‘ societal stature and general businesss vary greatly and it is clear to the reader that there are some who Chaucer greatly admires and others who he intends to a jeer of. In making so, he besides assigns gender stereotypes, which can be seen in his favourable portraiture of the “ Knight ” character and really unfavourable portraiture of the “ Prioress ” character. By comparing the Prioress ‘ and Knight ‘s descriptions in the “ General Prologue, ” the reader can state this to be true.

Upon first reading Chaucer ‘s Prioress description it would look that she is a favourable figure in his eyes: “ Ther was besides a Nonne, a Prioress / That of hir smile was ful simple and coy./Hir gretteste ooth was but by sainte joy! ” ( lines 118-120 ) . This shortly turns to a sarcastic tone and we see how Chaucer uses the Prioress to depict his positions on adult females in general: shoal, unfaithful and wanting riches/higher societal position. The Prioress is described as a nun but Chaucer emphasizes her blue mode and public image. The Prioress is seeking to move as if she were in a higher societal stature than she truly is. Her efforts to feign she is something that she is non is Chaucer ‘s manner to demo her superficiality ( and his degrading position towards adult females in general ) . Equally difficult as she may seek to conceal them, Chaucer points out her defects. The Abbess flaunts her instruction and cognition of French as if she had traveled at that place for an drawn-out period of clip and was a worldly traveller. When the storyteller says, “ And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetishly, / After the scole of Stratford at the Bowe- / For Frenssh of Paris was to engage unknowe ” ( lines 124-126 ) , it is Chaucer ‘s manner of stating the reader that she does non cognize her Gallic from her travels, instead from books and schooling. Her efforts to sham herself as sophisticated merely make her character seem even shallower. This form continues when the storyteller remarks on her table manners “ At mete wel ytaught was she withalle: / She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle, / Ne wette hir fingers in hir sauce deepe ; / wel coude she carye a morsel, and wel keepe / That no drope ne fille upon hir Brest ” ( lines 127-131 ) and once more two lines subsequently adding “ Hir over-lippe wiped she so clene / That in hir coppe ther was no firthing seene ” ( lines 133-134 ) . This was clearly meant to be taken as irony instead than a good quality because no 1 wants to be remembered or described for their table manners. For this ground the reader can deduce that Chaucer is utilizing the storyteller to defame the Prioress ‘ character and adult females in general.

At the clip Chaucer wrote this, a adult female of the Prioress stature, a nun, is supposed to act and move a certain manner. That is to state, she should move in a mode that the Church would O.K. of. The storyteller describes her in a few ways as the antonym, which would be clearly known to any reader of the twenty-four hours. The first being when the storyteller is depicting her “ broach of golde ful sheene ” ( lines 160 ) which is inscribed with the followers, “ Cupid vincit omni. ” The “ broach ” is a piece of jewellery, and the lettering fundamentally translates to “ love conquers all. ” Since the Prioress is a nun, she should non hold a broach made of gold. She is non supposed to hold anything munificent ; instead, she should populate a life of simple agencies. She has purportedly made this committedness to the church. “ Love conquers all ” is normally used as an look between a love shared by a adult male and a adult female. As a nun, the Prioress should hold no cognition of this sort of love and to the people and Church of the twenty-four hours this would be considered profane. Last ( in respect to the Prioress ‘ deficiency of following her Church committednesss ) , the storyteller describers her headgear known as a wimple “ But sikerly she hadde a faire forheed: / It was about a spanne brood ” ( lines 154-155 ) . Translated this means that her brow is demoing through her headgear when merely her face should be. The reader can presume that she does this in order to do herself more beautiful. Combined, these actions show the Prioresses neglect for the Church, for if she genuinely cared, none of these would be present. Towards the terminal of the Prioress ‘ description, the storyteller leaves the reader with “ and pained hire to countrefete cheere / Of tribunal, and to been statlich of manere ” ( lines 139-140 ) . This fundamentally sums up the Priores, s and Chaucer ‘s position of adult females: forgery. The Prioress systematically fails to move in conformity with the Churches regulations although she is a nun, and pretends to be a true socialite and worldly figure when she is nil more than a pupil and an image of person she wishes to genuinely be.

When compared to the Prioress, the male Knight is depicted instead favourably as an honest character. Chaucer ‘s Knight is the true prototype of a soldier. Harmonizing to the storytellers description, he has killed many work forces and has traveled the universe, including Russia, Spain, Prussia, Lithuania, Africa and many other topographic points. Chaucer ‘s description of the Knight has non one negative facet. For this ground, it is apparent that Chaucer is demoing the reader all of the good qualities work forces have as opposed to the qualities females deficiency. The Knight ‘s qualities include award, courage, devotedness to his lands, and honestness. This is shown throughout the storyteller ‘s description of the Knight, including when he states “ he loved chivalrye. / Troughe and honor, freedom and curteisye ” ( lines 45-46 ) , “ He nevere yet no vilainye ne saide ” ( line 70 ) and “ a verray, parfit, gentil knight ” ( line 72 ) . Harmonizing to the storyteller, he has been on more missions than anyone else, and no 1 can compare in footings of repute. The following extract from the “ General Prologue ” shows this clearly:

“ At Alisander he was whan it was wonne ;

Flu ofte clip he hadde the broord bigonne

Aboven alle nacious in Pruce ;

In Lettou had he resised, and in Ruce,

No Christian adult male so ofte of his grade ;

In Grenade at the sege eek hadde he b

Of Algezir, and ridden in Bekamarye ;

At Lyeis was he, and at Satalye,

Whan they were wonne ” ( lines 51-59 )

Compared to Chaucer ‘s blemished Prioress, the Knight has traveled all over the universe, and if he had known how to talk Gallic it would be because he had visited the land and learned from experience. The fact that the Knight went on so many missions ( campaigns ) and is held in such high respect by his state shows his dedication to his state, or what he is supposed to make ( it is his duty to make this as a solider ) . Since the Prioress is supposed to follow the guidelines of the Church but systematically does non, she is opposite from the Knight in this manner. This aspect is decidedly integrated by Chaucer deliberately to raise the image of work forces even higher from adult females. He does his responsibility despite the dangers he may faces, since merely work forces could function their state ; Chaucer is utilizing this facet of the Knights character in a double manner to divide work forces and adult females.

The concluding comparing between the Prioress and Knight can be shown in footings of secular ownerships and visual aspects. Both a knight and nun should hold small in footings of garments and ownerships. As stated antecedently the Prioress has a desire for munificent points and attempts to do herself more physically appealing. In footings of ownerships and appearances the Knight is described by the storyteller in the undermentioned footings: “ His hors were goode, but he was non cheery. / Of fustian he wered a gipoun / All bismotered with his haubergoun ” ( line 74-76 ) , intending the Knight is non really dressed to maintain up with current tendencies, even his armour is worn. This is how it should be for a adult male of his stature. The lone ownership the Knight does hold is his Equus caballus: he would be nil without it. This is a humbling characteristic that is besides lacked by the Prioresses character.

An analysis of Chaucer ‘s work reveals blunt differences between his word picture of male ( the Knight ) and female ( the Prioress ) characters. Chaucer ascribes different qualities transporting different intensions to both genders. While Chaucer exposes the Prioress as deceitful and selfish, the Knight is described in much more honest footings, genuinely incarnating aristocracy and attachment to responsibility. Throughout Chaucer ‘s The Canterbury Tales, the reader finds that the storytellers ‘ descriptions of the characters are similar, in that the males seem to hold a higher degree of character when compared to the female characters. All of the female characters are described as fallacious, shallow, missing religion, and merely caring for themselves. For this ground, the reader can see that Chaucer ‘s true feelings towards each gender are represented throughout The Canterbury Tales. In fact, many have said that when the storyteller speaks to the reader and says he is depicting the characters as he sees them, Chaucer is giving a hint that he has really depicted some world in his work of fiction. Chaucer ‘s description of the Prioress and Knight, peculiarly, can be viewed as his commentary on work forces and adult females, and their general characteristics/commitment to their several functions.

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