Corruption and Hypocrisy in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

981 WordsJun 25, 20184 Pages
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the prioress’s behavior can be interpreted as being part of the change occurring within religious institutions, which were changing to allow for freedom of thought and individual choice, as the nun does when she takes the liberty of customizing her fine garb by wearing it with beads and a gold brooch. The nun is one of the first characters to be given a name and as such is identified as being an individual, and not just seen as being a nun. The nun’s deviation from expected behavior and norms can thus be seen as a positive trait which Chaucer praises as women became more independent and redefined their own roles in society. Excessive understatement, negative imagery, and refined diction, however…show more content…
Though the prioress is a religious figure who is suppose to be practicing moderation, piousness, and charity, she is instead refining behavior that is expected of the courts, which is unnecessary in religious institutions. The extensive description of her elegant attire and courtly manners paints a portrait of excessive pompousness and arrogance. The extravagance of the nun’s clothes also shows that rather than living in humble poverty, the nun is living a lavish life, which portrays her in a corrupt light because she does not abide by the teachings of the convent. The nun further demeans religious codes through her obsession with worldliness. The nun’s boundless love for her dogs, and the tears that she sheds for animals demean the respect and love that she should be directing towards God because she shows that she loves the material more than she does anything else. Her brooch that reads “Amor vincit omnia” (162) is a display of her affection towards worldly material items because her love is imprinted on her brooch instead of being expressed through her actions. The nun’s focus on worldly items reflects the corruption that was overtaking religious institutions as more individuals within it began to incorporate the ambitions and ideals of aristocracy into their religious practices. Negative imagery is used by Chaucer to undermine the effects of the narrator’s words. The manners practiced by the prioress are described by
Open Document