The Canterbury Tales


The Prioress

The Prioress, Madame Engletyne, was a high-ranking woman in the Church. A prioress was a nun who ran a convent or abbey, and she would have been a nun for a number of years before attaining that position. The Narrator’s description of the Prioress is interesting because it reveals how much the Church had replaced the nobility as the ruling moneyed class; though not a lady, the Prioress behaved much as one would have expected a member of the nobility to behave. For example, she travels with a company of one nun and three priests, which was similar to people at court. Her religious trappings were expensive and simulated the jewelry one might find on a member of the nobility. She is also described as physically attractive, a detail that might seem unimportant, but, given that nuns were not viewed in a sexual manner, the very fact that the nun was considered attractive helps highlight the fact that being a Church employee was almost indicative of social class and standing.

Sign up to continue reading The Prioress >

Essays About The Canterbury Tales