Canterbury Tales

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English 3

Hypocrisy and Corruption in the Medieval Church

Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities or standards that one does not actually have. The church was an important force during the medieval times because back then it was a time where people believed their souls were the most important thing they had, and that true religion was the only way to save them. Many of the religious characters in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales represent character traits that are different from what is traditionally expected of them. Much of the religious hypocrisy stems from the practice of wealthy people taking religious positions without any desire to serve or sacrifice.

Characters in Chaucer’s time were corrupt because they used their position to be greedy. The summoner is a church official who brings people accused of violating church law to special courts set up by the church. In the story he is a very deceitful, greedy person who uses his position as a church official to pressure innocent people into giving him money. “But well I know he lied in what he said… a curse should put a guilty man in dread” (675), this shows how greedy and inconsiderate the summoner was. Also he issues false summons to get money from people. Instead of representing justice, he represents the exact opposite; injustice. The role of the pardoner was to sell “tickets”, which granted the people that brought it to wash their sins away. He has no guilt whatsoever; he freely admits to his corruption with no care at all. As if that wasn’t enough, the pardoner also brags about committing fraud by saying, “I preach for nothing but for greed or gain” (7320. All in all the pardoner and the summoner used their position as a gain for money.

Other characters in medieval times were not always corrupt, but hypocritical because they didn’t take their oaths and values seriously. Most Monks during medieval times lived in monasteries, which meant that they...
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