Satire in Canterbury Tales

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The aim of any true satirical work is to poke fun at a certain aspect of society, while also inspiring reform to that very same aspect in one way or another. In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chaucer satirizes the Medieval Church and those associated with the church. Medieval society was centered largely around the Church. Ideally, the people were expected to understand that earthly possessions were meaningless when compared to the prospect of closeness with God. Man was expected to work until he died, at which time he would receive eternal salvation. This eternal salvation was achieved by obeying God's commandments. This theory, however, was becoming progressively corrupted as hypocrisy began to pollute the Church, particularly at the higher levels. Chaucer recognized this degradation of religious ideals. He exposes this in his prologue by skillfully and subtly satirizing the religious figures. Using a unique view of ‘Chaucer the Pilgrim' to describe them, he points out that certain characters are not as they should be. The characters that Chaucer uses to satirize the Church are the Monk, the Friar, and the Pardoner. Chaucer does not criticize them openly, however. Chaucer simply emphasizes qualities that, although favorable to the character's general personality, are not consistent with the expectations of their position. Chaucer highlights characteristics in these figures that portray them as good people, but calls attention to the fact that they do not act in a religious manner. Chaucer does respect the fact, however, that some degree of virtue remains in the church. This is represented by the Parson, who was "a holy-minded man of good renown," "first following the word before he taught it." It is clear that Chaucer saw the problem of the Church as being hypocritical. Chaucer clearly presents the corruption and hypocrisy in the Church through his descriptions of the Monk, Friar, and Pardoner. Chaucer tells about the characters of these men as they truly are,...
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