Secularism v. Spirituality in the Second Nun's Tale Essay

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Secularism v. Spirituality in the Second Nun's Tale

In the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer describes the men and women of the Church in extreme forms; most of these holy pilgrims, such as the Monk, the Friar, and Pardoner, are caricatures of objectionable parts of Catholic society. At a time when the power-hungry Catholic Church used the misery of peasants in order to obtain wealth, it is no wonder that one of the greatest writers of the Middle Ages used his works to comment on the religious politics of the day.

Yet not all of Chaucer's religious characters are failures in spirituality. His description of the Second Nun is of a truly pious woman who spends her life in the service of
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Chaucer does not only the tale to show off his writing abilities -- it is not simply a display of his incredible versatility as an author. Chaucer uses this tale to contrast his anti-church sentiments within the Canterbury Tales; it shows his great respect for spiritual beliefs and benefits him in making his argument against the Church. In essence, Chaucer is clearly defending his anti-secular position by showing his reverence and devotion to spirituality; his problems lie with the Church, not the faith. While very well known for his sardonic criticism of the Church, he is less often acknowledged for his appreciation and respect for the religion itself.

Judith A. Weise puts forth one of the more shocking theories concerning the Second Nun's Tale in her essay Chaucer's Tell-Tale Lexicon: Romancing Seinte Cecyle. Weise argues that Chaucer's purpose for writing the saint's tale as a self-imposed literary penance for the "raptus" of Cecilia Chaumpaigne. She posits:

Chaucer began translating the lyf in the wake of Cecilia's release to deflect negative reactions by his family... Is it just a stunning coincidence that the one saint's life Chaucer writes concerns a virgin martyr with the same name? (1)

Why not? Perhaps Chaucer, like many other writers, uses his writing as some form of psychological and spiritual cleansing;

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