The Monk

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The Monk is next, an extremely fine and handsome man who loves to hunt, and who follows modern customs rather than old traditions. This is no bookish monk, studying in a cloister, but a man who keeps greyhounds to hunt the hare. The Monk is well-fed, fat, and his eyes are bright, gleaming like a furnace in his head. The Monk A man who tends the property of the monastery. He is fat and happy, loves good food and wine, and finds the taverns more to his liking than the cold, severe monastery. The Monk

Chaucer presents a corrupt Monk who loves the good life and finds more pleasure in hunting than studying in the cloister. The Monk’s weakness for good food and expensive clothing and his love for hunting violate the monastic vows of poverty and simplicity. He is riding a sleek berry brown horse on his way to Canterbury. The bells attached to his horse’s bridle tinkle pleasantly with the wind. Chaucer ironically pronounces that the Monk is perfectly suitable for the office of abbot. The Monk, Daun Piers, is an outrider; i.e. he takes care of the monastery’s estates. He spends more time outside his cloister than he should. He does not care at all about the rules laid down by St. Benedict and bears no guilt about the fact that he rides out instead of devoting himself to his monastic duties. Chaucer ironically agrees with the Monk’s point of view and innocently asks why should the Monk make himself mad by pouring over a book in a cloister. The Monk’s pleasure in hunting is a fitting object of satire. In the Middle Ages Monks who took delight in hunting were severely condemned by the reformers. In fact hunting itself was considered an immoral activity. Chaucer’s Monk is a perfect hunter and one who takes extreme interest and pleasure in tracking and hunting wild rabbits. He thus keeps fine horses and well bred hunting hounds in his stable. The Monk is a worshipper of materialism. The sleeves of his coat are trimmed with the finest gray fur in the land. His hood is fastened under his chin with an exquisite gold love knot. His boots are supple and expensive. His bald - head and face shine radiantly as if anointed with oil. His large eyes roll in his head and gleam like a furnace under a cauldron. He is healthy and well fed and loves to eat a plump roasted swan. Chaucer ironically concludes that the Monk is certainly a "fair prelat". Chaucer’s subtle ironic portraiture of the ‘manly’ Monk and repeated approbation of the Monk’s abilities only arouses the reader’s derision.

The Prioress (Madame Eglantine) A very genteel lady who is coy and delicate. She has precise manners, eats as an aristocrat would, and wears a gold brooch with "Love conquers all" inscribed in Latin. The Prioress, called 'Madame Eglantine' (or, in modern parlance, Mrs. Sweetbriar). She could sweetly sing religious services, speaks fluent French and has excellent table manners. She is so charitable and piteous, that she would weep if she saw a mouse caught in a trap, and she has two small dogs with her. She wears a brooch with the inscription 'Amor vincit omnia' ('Love conquers all'). The Prioress brings with her her 'chapeleyne' (secretary), the Second Nun. The Prioress

Chaucer has painted an utterly charming and elegant portrait of the Prioress. She is named Eglentyne or Sweetbriar. She has a broad forehead, perfect nose, blue-gray eyes, and thin red lips. Her smile is simple and coy. Her appearance conforms to the contemporary ideal of a beauty. She only swears by ‘St. Loy’ which is to say that she hardly swears at all. She sings the divine service very well with a pleasant nasal intonation and can speak French elegantly. She is obviously a lady who has not forgotten her past of extravagance and fine living. She strives to imitate courtly manners which is evident in her precise table manners where she even takes care not to wet her fingers too deeply in sauce. Her tender heart runs over with pity at the sight of dead or bleeding mice caught in a trap. She is...
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