The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

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In “The Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer uses satire to make a statement about the nature of humanity. “The Prologue” shows the importance of a historical meaning as it describes the social classes of the 1300’s. However, most modern readers can relate to the hypocrisy being displayed by the first three major characters.
     Chaucer begins his examination early with three religious characters-first being the monk. Monks were supposed to live their lives in poverty, chastity, and obedience-something that this particular monk failed to do. He took pleasure in owning many horses and dressing nicely which defiled his purpose of poverty. If he wasn’t living by this characteristic, then of course, he wasn’t being very obedient.
     Immediately following the monk, the nun is described as a very counterfeit person. She loved to put on a show in front of others and act cheerful, mannerly, and religious; this was not her true self. She knew very little about her religion, which made her a very hypocritical person. If she wanted to have the role of a nun, she was supposed to represent it properly, but she did not.
     Chaucer concludes his list of consecutive hypocritical characters with the friar. In the 1300’s, friars were supposed to live by strict codes such as representing a Christ-like image and not taking anything unless given. This friar, however, preferred not to be around the poor and sick which is not representing the life of Christ because those were the people he was usually around. He also desired to dress as richly as the pope, which wasn’t very Christ-like. He also never did a favor for anybody unless he was rewarded for it; this contradicted his humbleness.
     The hypocrisy in “The Prologue” is made very clear when Chaucer balances the evil with goodness represented by the parson and plowman.

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These brothers are honest, humble, and sincere about their religion. They basically possess all of the qualities that the religious figures mentioned above do not. The goodness they portray easily disgrace the monk, nun, and friar; yet, they give hope to humanity.
     By reading “The Prologue”, we see humanity at its best and worst. We, as modern readers, can relate to the 1300’s as we conclude from Chaucer’s use of satire that hypocrites have always existed.
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