Jest and Earnest in Chaucer's Work

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Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London around 1342, though the details are vague at best, and lived until 1400. Little is known of his early education, but his works show that he could read French, Latin, and Italian, and as such was clearly very well educated, and it is also known that he spent much of his life close to the centres of English power because the first reports of Chaucer come from 1357 as a page in the household of Prince Lionel before he went to serve for Edward III in France, where he was captured and ransomed. His first literary work appeared in the form of `The Book of the Duchess' in 1369, an allegory which grieves over the death of John of Gaunt's wife Blanche. Chaucer wrote many other works after this period but it was…show more content…
However, Chaucer clearly highlights the point to the reader that the prioress is none of these things as she flaunts her apparent beauty with what she wears and how she behaves. As David Aers tells us, "The Prioress is one of the least reserved of Chaucer's characters, openly flaunting her sexuality through her behaviour around the other pilgrims." Comments from Chaucer the pilgrim such as "ful fetys was hir cloke," describing her elegant coat that she wore and the description of the prioress' physical appearance itself clearly represent the idea that the prioress is drawing attention to herself. The idea of the prioress' nose being "tretys" and "Hir mouth ful small, and therto softe and reed" show the physical flaunting of the prioress and though a nun's habit in the 14th Century would have been different to today, it was a sombre, highly modest garb worn to show penance. As such, the reader begins to wonder how our Prioress's forehead shows, much less how she displays the artificially high brow that was the height of fashion at the time.

Despite all of this mockery from Chaucer at the prioress' expense, it is clear that there is no actual malice in the comments that are being passed. Chaucer does not comment too much on her work with the Church and with other people, he merely highlights the flaw of the prioress' vanity, a flaw that should not be present in a lady of the Church. This type of presentation if typical throughout the Canterbury Tales' general
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