What Is The Three Estate System In The Pardoner's Tale

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Geoffrey Chaucer lived in an era of social class; which he clearly demonstrates in his book Canterbury Tales. Chaucer does a decent job on portraying each of the pilgrims as an example of various ranks within the 14th century English society. When you first start reading the Canterbury Tales, you may think that Chaucer's social awareness and insightful characterizations can be seen as portrayals of British society in the late 1300s and early 1400s. Also, one can mistake his analysis, criticism, and his sardonic condemnation elements of the British culture as genuine attempts to alter the oppressive system by having malevolent characters. For example, the Friar, the Summoner, the Pardoner, and the Prioress.

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Theoretically, the Three Estate system represented the natural order of society (not surprisingly, this societal structure mirrored the hierarchy espoused by the Catholic Church ) and was seen as absolute: "in it [the Three Estate system], all individuals should unquestioningly accept their inherited occupation and place" (Aers 14). Subjects were to view the Estates system as a communal safety net where, when working together, all elements of society benefited and prospered: "massive differences in power, access to resources, and status were allegedly in everyone's interest, the 'common profit'" (Aers 14). Regardless of the nature of the system, lower class people were encouraged to see the Estates structure necessary to avoid chaos and to ensure the overall prosperity (Introduction to Sociology). However, Chaucer himself represents a paradox to this system. How does one categorize secular individuals who neither work "to sustain the basic life processes of the community (the lowest estate)," nor, "defend the community (the knightly estate)?" According to Micro History and World Timeline (2008), by the late 1300s, a new social class was taking shape: it was the…show more content…
The CT uses a new, broader approach to address all these issues. In Chaucer, Aers states "Chaucer's writing is marked by an openness to many contradictory [social] forces the General Prologue alludes to traditional ideology on the Three Estates through the figures of the Knight, Priest, and Ploughman Peasant. But it does so in a context which dissolves the Estate ideology" (15-17). Further, Strohm states, in Studies in the Age of Chaucer, "Through juxtaposition of statements on themes like genteelness, sovereignty, and authority, he [Chaucer] shows his audience that the truth about a subject is not unitary or closed, but is open and additive and can best be approached by entertaining a variety of points of view that existing orders of decorum and procedure must remain open to modification. Chaucer provides a formal analogue for the readjustments of perception which follow when new classes invade and modify traditional social orders (35). Canterbury Tales presented a challenge to the three estates system because of the use of rhetoric advocating to change, which motivated the intent to further the recognition, and the success, of the emerging middle class! Chaucer paints his characters skillfully. Without examinating Chaucer's social background and political intentions, you might not even pay attention to

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