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The Canterbury Tales Prologue English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 994 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In The Canterbury Tales: The Prologue by: Geoffrey Chaucer; translated by Nevill Coghill, Chaucer sets the tone and setting of the story to a specific period during the medieval times. Chaucer uses two forms of characterization to reveal many characters associated in The Prologue which are direct characterization and indirect characterization. The character described in The Prologue is a monk. He is described as a fat and personable priest, with no hair, a shiny face, big eyeballs, and rides a brown saddle horse. The monk’s function in society is supposed to be a representative of the Church. They are supposed to be saving sinners and preaching about their specific religion to persuade more people to convert and spreading the religion of their Church. What the character actually does is wear the best quality of clothing which has decorated or trimmed sleeves, fine gray fur, and a gold fashioned pin. Monks are supposed to be poor because they are not supposed to have or carry any material possessions, but this monk is dressed in fine clothing, retains an exquisite horse, and hunting dogs. What makes this monk a bad representative of the Church is that since monks are supposed to follow God’s words, they are supposed to care for all creation including animals, but this monk hunts and kills animals with his hunting dogs. He spares no animals and considers hunting as a fun sport.

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A direct characterization is a direct statement or sentence in which the narrator or character in the story tells us what we need to know about the character. An example is on page 102 “This Monk was therefore a good man to horse; Greyhounds he had, as swift as birds, to course. Hunting a hare or riding at a fence was all his fun, he spared for no expense”. Chaucer comes right out and tells us that this monk is not actually a good man; when he goes hunting, he uses hunting dogs which are very keen and fast, and that he is overall an immoral person because he is supposed to be preaching the religion of the church, but is actually killing innocent animals for fun. He spares no animals regardless of his role in society. Another example is on page 102, “His head was bald and shone like looking-glass; so did his face, as if it had been greased. He was a fat and personable priest”. In these three lines, Chaucer describes this dishonest monk by explaining how his head is shiny and bald, as well as his head. He was a rather “big” priest. These two examples make the character not likeable because the monk is just considered someone that, as a religious figure, should not be doing. He is supposed to be a monk, which in the medieval time period, is described as a poor, representative of the Church with no possessions. This monk is a hunter, he is fat and fed with good and expensive food, and was dressed expensively in fine gray fur with a gold pin and decorated sleeves.

An indirect statement is a statement or sentence in which we find out about characters indirectly through thoughts, comments, dialogue, and actions to reveal a character’s personality. An example would be on page 101, on the introduction sentence to the monk: “A Monk there was, one of the finest sort who rode the country; hunting was his sport”. Chaucer tells us how the monk travels the country and enjoys hunting as his hobby. He tells us that the monk was considered one of the well or best dressed in class. Another example is on page 102 “I saw his sleeves were garnished at the hand with fine gray fur, the finest in the land, and on his hood, to fasten it at his chin he had a wrought-gold cunningly fashioned pin”. We find out in this description about how the monk’s sleeves were decorated or trimmed with excellent gray fur; the best fur available in the region, and how he had an artfully gold fashioned pin. These statements describe how Chaucer’s Monk is dressed in rich clothes and his hood and clothes are made of the best gray fur in the area. His hood is also fastened by an expensive gold pin. An additional example is also on page 102. “His prominent eyeballs never seemed to settle. They glittered like the flames beneath a kettle; He was a prelate fit for exhibition, He was not pale like a tormented soul”. Chaucer tells us in these lines that his bulging eyeballs are constantly moving or darting around his surroundings. Interpretations in which we are supposed to draw are that Chaucer’s Monk is dressed in valuable clothes of a rich class with the best gray fur of the land and with expensively designed gold pins. We also learn that his eyeballs are constantly bulging and dashing around like the flames beneath a hot stove. He is always full of energy and has a comfortable soul with everything he is receiving, like his rich clothes, stable of horses, hunting dogs, rich food, gold jewelry, and his hunting hobby.

The Canterbury Tales: The Prologue was set specifically during the medieval times. Chaucer used two forms of characterization to tell us what we needed to know about a specific character and inferences in which we as a reader are expected to draw upon. Overall the Monk was considered a bad representative of the Church, and everything that, as a religious figure shouldn’t be doing. Monks are supposed to be poor and lacking in belongings, but Chaucer’s Monk is dressed in rich clothes, maintains a stable of horses and hunting dogs. He spends much of his time hunting instead of saving souls of sinners and helping the Church. The Monk wears some of the best fur of the region and was considered high in class. The Monk cared very little about monastic rules and spent most of his time hunting and eating. The Monk’s lack of respect for the old traditions of the religious life provides us with the tragedy in medieval times and the craving of the modern world spacious ways.


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