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Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Analytical Essay

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Updated: Jun 30th, 2020

Geoffrey Chaucer is famous for having written “The Canterbury Tales.” The tales touch on various topics such as corruption and marriage, and they also unveil the immoral nature of the clergy in the modern Catholic churches.

Chaucer writes his work in different ways. Sometimes he explains his thoughts and ideas in the tales, and at other times, he just uses a theme to explain what he meant. Sometimes, his characters put across the message. Chaucer had the intention that pilgrims would tell two tales each as they went to Canterbury from England, and as they came back from Canterbury.

However, he only managed to get the tales on the way to Canterbury only. Critics praise the tales for unfolding some of the evils existing among people in the society. This paper illustrates the character of two pilgrims; Wife of Bath and the Summoner as portrayed by Chaucer. This will provide an insight of how the characters influence and impact on contemporary societies.

The Wife of Bath is one of the pilgrims. The term Bath refers to a town along the Avon River in England. It is not her husband’s name as many people would presume. The woman is deaf on one ear, and she is proud of a gap on her upper jaw, between her two front teeth.

It is worth noting that such a gap was of high regard during the era of this pilgrimage, and also a symbol of beauty among women (Pearsall 66). She has no professional career but has a talent as a seamstress. She is a professional wife in the society. She has been on several pilgrimages in the world; thus, this pilgrimage to Canterbury is not the first one. It is imperative to note that she has been into the institution of marriage five times and when she was young, she had numerous premarital affairs.

She has a lot of experience in marriage, love and sex. She adorns herself in expensive clothes. She likes talking and arguing (Bisson 18). Moreover, she is intelligent. This comes out clearly through the denial of sexual pleasure to men until they give her whatever she asks for.

Another pilgrim is the Summoner. Chaucer portrays him as one of the most corrupt people in the pilgrimage. He belongs to the lower class of the society and Chaucer places him under the immoral people. He is filthy with acute signs of leprosy on his face (Bisson 37). He is a drunkard who frequents the drinking dens, and he irritates people from time to time, especially when he is drunk.

He utters some words in Latin just to show that he is a learned man. He is an unscrupulous person who lives by taking bribes (Pearsall 89). Supposedly, he should be a religious man who acts as a link between Christians and the secular world, but his worldly desires prevent him from doing so. This is evident where he exchanges a cooking pan from an old woman for twelve pence.

His position in the society is to take people who go against the law of the church to court. The irony here is that he takes law breakers to court, yet he is a law breaker. Bribery is unethical in the society, just like going against the law of the church. Therefore, he does not deserve his role in society.

In essence, Chaucer’s tales illustrate the situation in the contemporary society. There are several women engrossed with passion, money and sex just like the Woman of Bath. Similarly, there are numerous church leaders who see the mistakes of others, but never acknowledge their own mistakes. Thus, Chaucer’s tales enlighten the world on past experiences, which are also, evident in the modern societies. I would recommend the tales to all literature students and all lovers of knowledge.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales." June 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chaucers-canterbury-tales/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales'. 30 June.

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