Church Corruption & Canterbury Tales

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Corruption of the Church in The Canterbury Tales
Around 1300AD, the Italian Renaissance was introduced, spreading through continental Europe as a “rebirth” of intellect, culture, and especially in the church. Despite the societal advancement, this religious renewal didn’t reach England until over a century later, which was partly because of corruption. During this period when England was behind the times, world connoisseurs such as Geoffrey Chaucer gradually brought the development into the country. Such is evident in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, where Renaissance-like characters on a holy pilgrimage take part in a story telling competition. Many of the pilgrims are part of the clergy and mimic the essence of the modern times by showing irony in their sacrosanct positions. Thus, corruption of the church within The Canterbury Tales is displayed in four key characters; the Nun, Monk, Friar, and Pardoner.

The first clergy member, the Nun, is described as pleasant, friendly, entertaining, and well mannered. However she seems too concerned with her appearance and is occupied with courtly love. Chaucer writes, “Her cloak, I noticed, had a graceful charm.

She wore a coral trinket on her arm,
A set of beads, the gaudies tricked in green,
Whence hung a golden brooch of brightest sheen
On which there first was graven a crowned A,
And lower, Amor vincit omnia” (Chaucer 106)
Chaucer explains how despite her polite grace; the Nun’s garb is elaborate and showy. An exemplary Nun should be simple and humble, in a modest habit. To heighten the odd manner, the brooch engraved in Latin translates to “Love Conquers All”. This brooch is outrageous, since her code strictly adheres to celibacy. However, the quote distinctly refers to courtly love. The Nun’s impaired ways are evident exclusively by examining her appearance; however the following character’s depraved actions are more troubling than that of the Nun. The next clergyman featured is the Monk....
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