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However, in The Canterbury Tales, the knight is revealed as a character that would now be considered a knight in shining armor, a perfect role model in how he acts and what he does.

Seemingly opposite views exist within the “Retraction” and The Canterbury Tales.

Throughout his life, Geoffrey Chaucer encountered every kind of person and brought them to life for us in "The Canterbury Tales," a collection of short stories written in the 1300's.


These stereotypes are especially examined by Chaucer in love stories.

Chaucer demonstrates this idea in The Canterbury Tales, specifically with the Merchant character.


That leads to another fundamental point about the Tales. A number of theTales stand in isolation, without a clear introductory linkage to the pilgrimageframe, and sometimes without a very clearly identified teller (the Manof Law's Tale about Custance, the Squire's Tale about Cambyuskan, the Merchant'sTale about old Januarius, the Franklin's Tale about Arveragus and Dorigene,and perhaps the Nun's Tale about St Cecilia).

Because of this fragmentation, it has become very easy for us to'de-frame' the tales we are reading and attribute them all as theystand to the authorial Chaucer. The fundamental reason for this may bebecause of our 'romantic' notions of the poet/author's relationship withhis work. The result of this process, though, is incoherence, the demolitionof the Canterbury Tales as such. Ironically, the work is literally tornto pieces, because it is accused of being fragmentary. All life is fragmentary,as all knowledge is: 'We know in part' (I Corinthians 13). The Tales couldnever have been other than fragmentary.

We have difficulty sympathizing with the savage Knight in the General Prologue?Then we take his Tale away from him, and read it as Chaucer's adaptationof Boccaccio, obviously written years before the idea of writing the Talesever dawned. By doing so, though, we loose all ability to reflect on whythe Knight's Tale stands at the beginning of the Tales, directlyafter the General Prologue in all major manuscripts, and on the possiblethematic links between it and other tales. In this first Tale, Loveis an utterly destructive passion that turns sworn brothers into mortalenemies, and reduces high princes to the level of wild animals. We areshown the gods of this pagan world, where Christ has not yet been born,and see that they are indifferent to human pain or powerless to relieveit. Human beings become the objects of arbitrary measures designed to keepa semblance of harmony, and the only certain thing in life is death.

The religious question is clearly posed, then, from the very outset: Whydo bad things happen to people? Must there be pain? The Miller comes bargingin, upsetting all the Host's plans, and tells his tale, that follows theKnight's Tale in every manuscript, no doubt as Chaucer wished. It is notenough to say, as Pilgrim Chaucer does, that he's a lout and tells a lout'stale, in contrast to the aristocrat's refined art. There is much more tobe said about the way the two tales complement one another; sexual ambitionsoperate destructively in high and low alike, jealousy and revenge drivemen to extremes of violence; the injustice of the trick the gods play onArcite is paralleled by the trick Nicholas plays on John in the tub.

Only in the Miller's Tale we are in a christian setting; at theheart of the story is the evocation of Noah's Ark, which the New Testamentsays is an image of Baptism, salvation from sin and death. The pictureof old John sound asleep in his Ark of salvation, exhausted after his effortsto save them all from drowning, while Nicholas 'swives' his willing wife,is as surreal as anything in Bosch; again, the question comes, 'And isthere care in heaven?' But also a murmur, 'They know not what they do.'Or do they?

At various points in the Canterbury Tales we come across people tryingto help people become aware of what they are doing, so that they stop doingit and change to lives of salvation. Success or failure may be a form ofjudgement on the hearers, or it may depend on the unity between the wordsand life of the speaker. Major examples of this come in the tale of Custance,who converts hosts of people in the pagan world in which she is kept aliveand intact by special grace, as in Noah's Ark, despite all the plots ofthe wicked.

In contrast, Cecilia in the Second Nun's Tale achieves the highestsuccess, eternal sainthood in heaven, by not surviving the attacks of thepagans, her holiness is assured by her martyrdom, and she is shown teachingher fellow-christians even with her head almost completely cut off. Thelife and the message here are one, in a story where the literary techniqueis significantly weak. The text of the Tale is a very conservative translationof a story from the Golden Legend.

Now, if we talk about Chaucer taking this old translation from a drawerand stuffing it into the Tales, to fill up a gap, we are not even beginningto read it as an integral part of the whole work. If we complain that weknow nothing about the second Nun, so that we cannot feel the tale's potentialirony, we are barking up the 'charming Dickensian characters' tree. Thistale demonstrates a key notion: the only way a text can tell the truthis by shunning the self-conscious search for aesthetic effects, humblyreproducing as closely as possible the original Auctor, because the aimof telling is to bring hearers to salvation. As Ellis (100) reminds us,the second Nun's Tale has many links with the Man of Law's Tale, and theMan of Law in his Prologue offers the supreme irony of a detailed criticismof the work of a contemporary poet named Geoffrey Chaucer! The fundamentaldiscussion about literature contained in the Canterbury Tales is not abouthow to make a 'good story' but whether anyone can tell a tale thatmakes people good. The answer seems to be that it is almost impossible,unless you are a martyr whose head has been partly cut off!

In very many of the Tales, the 'sentence,' the message, is far from clear,and often the finer the literariness, the more confused the application.A prime example of this is the Clerk's Tale of Griselde, which hegot from Petrarch; her sufferings are put in relationship with those ofJob, but it is far from clear that Walter can convincingly be read as God,unless God is the Knight's Tale's Saturn. What really confuses the matter,though, is the way in which the Clerk tries at the end to explain the message;the story, he says, shows that we should be constant in adversity.

But then he looks around at his audience, and suddenly Griselde becomesthe antifeminists' model wife, so hard to find nowadays, thanks, perhaps,to the Wife of Bath. So most tellers' attempts to adapt to and please theiraudience lead to a failure to express the truth potentially contained intheir tales, since the truth is more or less unpalatable either to themor to their listeners. Some tellers even seem unaware that there mightbe a truth to be conveyed, especially those responsible for the fabliaux.


Chaucer and Religion Essay - 680 Palabras | Cram

He criticizes many high-ranking members of the Church and describes a lack of morality in medieval society; yet in the “Retraction,” Chaucer recants much of his work and pledges to be true to Christianity.

Essay on Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Rather, the “Retraction” emphasizes Chaucer’s criticism of the Church and society in The Canterbury Tales by reinforcing the risk inherent in doing so....

Religious Characters in The Canterbury Tales by …

Are the italicized lines a part of the speech of Justinus, or arethey interpolated by the Merchant, in his own person, in order toshorten Justinus' harangue? Here is Professor Skeat's comment: `Thesefour parenthetical lines interrupt the story rather awkwardly. Theyobviously belong to the narrator, the Merchant, as it is out of thequestion that Justinus had heard of the Wife of Bath. Perhaps it isan oversight.' Now it makes no difference whether we assign theselines to Justinus or to the Merchant, for Justinus, as we have seen,has immediately before quoted the Wife's very words, and he may aswell mention her as repeat her language. Either way, the lines areexquisitely in place. Chaucer is not speaking, and there is noviolation of dramatic propriety on his part. It is not Chaucer who istelling the story. It is the Merchant. And the Merchant is telling itas a part of the discussion which the Wife has started. It isdramatically proper, then, that the Merchant should quote the Wife ofBath and that he should refer to her. And it is equally proper, fromthe dramatic point of view, for Chaucer to let the Merchant makeJustinus mention the Wife. In that case it is the Merchant -- notChaucer -- who chooses to have one of his characters fall out of hispart for a moment and make a `local allusion.' Chaucer is responsiblefor making the Merchant speak in character; the Merchant, in histurn, is responsible for Justinus. That the Merchant should put intothe mouth of Justinus a remark that Justinus could never have madeis, then, not a slip on Chaucer's part. On the contrary, it is afirst-rate dramatic touch, for it is precisely what the Merchantmight well have done under the circumstances.