Chaucer and the Seven Deadly Sins

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Shayne White

Chaucer and the Seven Deadly Sins

In the catholic religion the seven deadly sins: envy, pride, lust, anger, sloth, greed, and gluttony are themes that Catholics should stay away from and not abide to. In the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer the tales expose a common, universal truth which is the seven deadly sins. In the Tales the characters in the stories struggle with the temptation of not obeying the sins which incorporates and suggest why the pilgrims telling the stories are in fact on the pilgrimage. The pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales are on a pilgrimage to Canterbury to seek spiritual renewal for the sin or sins that they have committed. In the prologue of the Tales it writes, “People long to go on pilgrimages/. . . Down to Canterbury they wend/ To seek the holy blissful martyr quick/ To give his help to them when they were sick” (1 Chaucer). The description in the quote explains that the pilgrims feel “sick” in spiritual terms and need to be renewed from the past committed sins. Also, in the essay, Sketches of the Characters in The Canterbury Tales, written by Marchette Chite she says, “The [pilgrims] have walked out of England into immortality because they were born of a universal rather than a contemporary truth”. The quote explains that

the pilgrims have gone to Canterbury because they have gotten away from a “contemporary truth” which is believed to be the seven deadly sins. Pilgrims, then have to resort to a religious quest or pilgrimage to seek out spiritual renewal to the fullest extent.

The actions of the characters in the tales suggest that the characters struggle with the temptations of the seven deadly sins just as the pilgrims have. There are many occasions in the Canterbury Tales that tell of characters committing the sins. In the Knight’s Tale it writes, “Now as he spoke, Arcite chanced to see/ This lady as she roamed there to and fro, / and at the sight, her beauty hurt him so/ That if his cousin...
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