The Depiction of Revenge, Crime and Punishment Through Geoffrey Chaucer’s Eyes

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

In today’s day and age, topics such as rape, revenge, and the Church critique are viewed scandalously and shockingly. As for Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales these matters are apparent and acknowledged. In the novel, some tales address and illustrate these vulgar subjects and how different it was hundreds of years ago. Chaucer applies uncensored reproaches towards controversial topics, in the tales, to contradict the orthodox beliefs towards these issues, and how some of them are not as callous as they seem. The Canterbury Tales should not be cancelled in schools because it offers a sense of entertainment, perspective, morality, and a distinct narrative of each tale.

The overarching storyline of The Canterbury Tales is a group of unique people who venture on a pilgrimage. They are all going to Canterbury to visit Saint Thomas Beckett. The Host, Harry Bailey, proposes an idea of a storytelling competition between the “pilgrims.” Each person tells a tale, real or fictional, that explores a theme or two that provoke conversation. Some areas of focus are indirectly implied, like the critique of the church. These implications are displayed in tales such as “The Friar’s Tale,” “The Summoner’s Tale,” and “The Pardoner’s Tale.” The Summoner and Friar’s Tales are jabs at each other while The Pardoner discusses his own wrongdoings and sin. Chaucer includes these insinuations about the three church members to make a point about the corruptness of the Church. Even though some may find these remarks offensive, it does provide insight into the juxtaposition of people’s conventional perception of the Church. The reader’s responsibility is to form an opinion on and connect with the information given.

According to an article written by Martin Stevens and Kathleen Falvey, “Chaucer surely wrote the Canterbury Tales to entice us with his characters and their performances, and roadside drama has everything to do with our understanding of the tales that are told along the way, in taverns or ‘at a thropes ende.’ But that is precisely the point. He provided the characters as a means toward a larger end: our understanding of how every fiction is shaped by its teller and of how the purposes of storytelling differ signally with the intent of the teller and the perception of the audience” (JSTOR). Also, relating to “The Pardoner’s Tale” is, “Read as a performance, the Canterbury Tales is entertainment, escape from the boredom of humdrum travel. On this level, the Pardoner’s Tale provides the most interesting drama of the whole pilgrimage – enticing enough that we wish to understand it wholly as an event” (JSTOR). Even literature experts advise that they believe The Canterbury Tales insinuates a sense of amusement. “The Pardoner’s Tale” demonstrates that sinful people have a sense of righteousness Again, “It is not that the Pardoner tells a ‘moral thyng’; it is that he himself becomes part of a ‘moral thyng’ that Chaucer tells” (JSTOR). Many may argue that these religious narratives indicate a sense of animosity towards the Church of London. However, they are actually just Chaucer’s interpretation of its unscrupulousness with no malicious intent. As for revenge, it plays a whole other story.

“The act of avenging oneself or another; retributive infliction of injury or punishment; hurt or harm done from vindictive motives,” (OED) is how vengeance is defined. In Canterbury Tales, revenge is evident. In tales like “The Miller’s” and “The Reeve’s,” acts of retaliation are severly punishing and humiliating for some. Even in today’s world, these harsh actions are prevalent and publicized by the media. Similar to the Friar and Pardoner, these two men tells stories about each other. “The Reeve’s Tale” is an ill-mannered, difficult-to-read tale that includes scenes of rape and torment. While this incites an instant frustration for readers, these merciless actions have been around for ages with little improvement. R. Wolf Baldassarro, an author, writes, “I find it highly ironic that the Church would attack Chaucer for discussing rape when the Bible itself is full of tales involving the heinous act” (Baldassarro).

Canterbury Tales may be one of the most unsuitable novels created, but it truly provides an account of life, back then, through Chaucer’s eyes. Its pertinency to humanity today establishes the connections between religion, crime, punishment, and revenge. Though, banned many times across the world, Chaucer’s depiction has laid a foundation for literature and it is essential for people to recognize the efforts put forward by him. While these topics may be tremendously debatable and sensitive to those reading it, most people have already adapted to hearing about such events in the news, on social media, or from others’ stories.


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