27 October 2011
Chaucer’s Statement of the Church in The Canterbury Tales While there are many themes and motifs that Geoffrey Chaucer cleverly weaves into his epic poem, The Canterbury Tales, it is his criticism of the Catholic Church that I find most intriguing. It wouldn’t be for nearly another century before the Protestant Reformation occurs, but I can’t help but think that The Canterbury Tales aided in pointing out the long standing, on going corruption. There were two other men who also condemned the Catholic Church in the early fifteenth century, Jan Hus and John Wycliffe, following the writing of Chaucer in the late fourteenth century. Chaucer outlines the characteristics of 29 pilgrims that embark on what is for most, a religious journey to Canterbury in “The General Prologue.” Chaucer challenges the class structure throughout this poem. In the time of Chaucer, the aristocracy and the Church ruled while all others were “lower” class. The oppressed “lower” class was growing in numbers, strengthening, and daring to create a “middle” class in their quest to better themselves. Chaucer, who was a product of this “middle” class, “had the gift of being able to view with both sympathy and humor the behaviors, beliefs, and pretensions of the diverse people who comprised the levels of society,” (Greenblatt, p. 216). From the tales that I was presented with, I was able to get a glimpse of the different classes of people, however Chaucer also seems to speak out strongly against the double standards that are occurring within the Church in his writing of his tales.
As I began to ponder the corruption Chaucer writes of, I discovered there was mention often of the “deadly sins.” According to the Church the seven “mortal” or “deadly” sins include the following: pride, avarice/greed, envy, wrath/anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth. In each tale that I read, at least one and...
Cited: Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Canterbury Tales.” The Norton Anthology of English
Literature. 8th ed. 1 vol. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: New York, 2006
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Canterbury Tales.” Trans. Ronald L. Ecker and Eugene J. Cook
Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, and the Medieval Catholic Church
Kenney, Bob. “Chaucer’s Criticism of the Catholic Church.” 27 May 2008.
Seven Deadly Sins
The New King James Version Holy Bible. Old and New Testaments. Thomas Nelson,
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