Canterbury Tales

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The Canterbury Tales
Essay Planner

Thesis:
Chaucer uses ironic descriptions of the characters in the "Prologue to the Canterbury Tales" to voice his opinion on social problems that are on the rise in the mid 1300's. Implications include greed, the loss of chivalry and the lack of loyalty to the church. These implications are easily illustrated by Chaucer using what you would expect from these certain characters and twisting those expectations to form a completely opposite person.

Greed:
One of the most emphasized issues in society as brought up in "The Prologue" is the greediness of some of the most trustworthy characters. Being as it was tough to make good money back then, sometimes the greed inside can take over and cause people do things that differ from their normal selves. Chaucer uses the description of the Miller and the Franklin to really show how honesty is becoming scarce in the 1300's.

The Miller - The job of a miller has become obsolete in this day in age but back in the 14th century, a miller was one of the most important occupations of a town. The miller would have his own mill where his job was to grind down any corn and wheat brought to him by the villagers and price it by weighing it on a scale. Now being as needed as he was, a miller would have also been a very honest and hardworking character; a very trustworthy man. But to differ from what is expected, the description of the Miller is ironic in the fact that his greediness has made him an untrustworthy man and no longer has honesty in what he does. The Miller would rip off his customers by doing subtle and unnoticeable actions such as stealing some of the corn or wheat and keeping it for his own family: "he could steal corn and charge it for three times... for a miller, as they say, has a golden thumb(76, 540-541)." This line states that not only did the Miller steal some of the corn, he also would push down on the scale with his thumb when weighing the grain to make it cost three times it's regular price. Just the same, when looking at the description of the Miller, "his big-beefed arms and thighs... he was thick, squat-shouldered lump of sins" he was not a guy most people were going to confront even if they caught him being greedy(76, 527-529).

The Franklin - The Franklin, like the previously mentioned miller, was a very trusted man in Chaucer's era. A Franklin was a landowner and sold his land off to serfs to live on while farming crops. A franklin was apart of the middle class, just below the gentry ranks meaning they were not rich but they were not poor either. Chaucer's Franklin was described as a very rich man, "he had a cellar none on earth could match" rivaling the wealthiness of even the kings(73, 236). Now, for a middle class man to even be considered at the rank of a nobleman is unheard of and could only be achieved by overpaying serfs for rent or by taking more of their crops. Both of these actions are a cause of greed on the inside getting the better of Chaucer's Franklin. The line "woe to his cook for an unready pot or a sauce that wasn't seasoned and spiced hot" could be hinting at the fact that he has 'slaves' working for him doing his cooking and maybe cleaning(73, 345-346). Having a servant is something a middle class person just would not have or afford without taking more money from the serfs who work his land. Just more proof of Chaucer's Franklin being greedy and getting more than what a normal Franklin of that era would have.

Loss of Chivalry:
The increase in greediness and decrease in honesty is only one of the issues faced though, another major social crisis eluded to in "The Prologue" is the loss of chivalry. This social implication of losing chivalry is important because the knights, squires and yeomen were so heavily depended upon by the serfs and other lower class citizens for protection and safety.

The Knight - Now, the knight is described by Chaucer without any irony meaning he was exactly what...
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