Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his last significant work, “The Canterbury Tales” during the late 14th century A.D. It is regarded as one of the greatest work of English literature. It consists of poems and prose, as some of the tales are in the prose version but a major part of it is poetic. There are twenty-four tales, and each tale presented by Chaucer, exhibits the mastery of most of the literary genres known in the middle ages.
The characters presented through the tales are of stereotyped social classes and occupation at odds with defined details of individual’s appearances and characteristics. The tales start with a general prologue that lay outs the narrative of the pilgrimage. In this way, a variety of characters are introduced by the narrator and each one of them will take their turn as narrator, so a prologue is written by Chaucer in order to formulate his pilgrimage and introduce the three main sections of society: the clergy, the nobility, and the peasantry.
The Monk in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ is depicted as living a luxurious lifestyle defying the expectations and responsibilities of the poor and devoted church officer, Chaucer presents a critique of the clergy in this period. The clergy was known to lead ordinary lives, a devotee of God. The nobility was normally wealthy, and the peasantry was the poverty-stricken class. This background is apposite because Chaucer’s monk does not fulfill these assumptions of the clergy section of society.
In the very first line about the monk, he is introduced as ‘a fair for the maistrye’ (line 165) already declaring being above the importance of the average person. Further, the monk is explained as having a passion for riding, which is generally a hobby of a rich man and not, for sure that of a supposed simple monk who is known for being devoted to books and prayers and residing within the walls of the monastery, as per St. Benedict’s rule of principally praying and working.
The monk blatantly involved in his out-of-character avocations like riding by dressing opulently for it with lined sleeves, costly fur, and a gold pin ‘to fasten his hood under his chin'(line 193-198). The monk’s clothes are hinting at his lifestyle, the reader also comes to know that he is a ‘lord full of fat'(line 200) and ‘his horse is in a great estate'(line 204). This gives the impression of a monk not living as per the ideals of clergy and who has become corrupt. This illustration of a monk who has taken a vow to lead a simple life and wear basic clothes gives the idea of his being careless and selfish.
Chaucer’s social commentary: he suggests that some monks take an edge of their position to spend their life comfortably, defying the stereotype of monks that his audience would have been familiar with. All the things a monk should not do are done by him. The monk, though, conscious about his deviation from the religious life, takes the self-justifying instance of being ‘a modern man’, an excuse that would sound hollow to judicious ears.
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- https://brightkite.com/essay-on/charity-in-chaucer-s-canterbury-tales https://lektsii.org/9-70973.html