The Canterbury Tales


Points to Ponder

Throughout The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer comments upon the corruption in the Church. Do his comments reflect on Christianity as a faith, or are they specific criticisms of the Church?

The Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was corrupt in many ways, and Chaucer’s work highlights areas of corruption. In particular, his focus on the pardoner and the friar highlight how unscrupulous men could use their affiliation with the Church for personal gain. However, when taken as a whole, the poem is reverent toward Christian ideology. For example, it is very respectful of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Moreover, while the poem treats some of the clergy, like the Monk and the Prioress, as human beings who are not solely focused on religious concerns, it also affords them a certain measure of respect. As a result, when viewed as a whole, one must conclude that The Canterbury Tales is highly critical of corruption in the Church but is not critical of Christianity.

What purpose does the Host serve in The Canterbury Tales? Does there seem to be a reason that Chaucer chose to employ a narrator and the Host?
In many ways, because the Host is the one to suggest that the pilgrims tell tales and encourages different pilgrims to speak, he seems to be driving much of the action in the backstory of the pilgrimage. Therefore, it is easy for someone to assume that the Host is the narrator. However, the Host and the Narrator are two different characters, and this distinction is important. The Narrator is portraying the Host as he remembered him. Thus, when the Host appears to favor one pilgrim over another or to treat someone unfairly, this may be due to the Narrator’s own feelings about the character rather than Host’s actual behavior toward that character. Using the Host as the narrator would have required less bias in the storytelling. However, the Narrator, who was simply a fellow pilgrim, can acknowledge his bias and use it to help move the story and engage in character development.

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Essays About The Canterbury Tales