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Books

The Motif Of Imposters In The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

The Canterbury Tales was written by Geoffrey Chaucer most likely in the late 1380s and early 1390s. After Chaucer wrote The General Prologue, he continued to write more tales concerning the same characters’ stories. The General Prologue introduces the twenty-nine pilgrims and uses each character to represent how society was during that time period. In the narrative poem, The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer uses the portrayal of the nun to convey the motif of imposters in the Roman Catholic Church by using the literary elements historical context, satire, and character behavior.

One way that Chaucer conveys the motif of imposters is by using the literary element, historical context. N. S. Thompson demonstrates how Chaucer uses literary devices, “With vivid irony Chaucer creates not only a company of pilgrims who are — with notable exceptions — mainly irreligious individuals, but who also represent the new social and economic conditions of the late middle age”. Thompson is explaining that Chaucer also used the social and economic conditions of that time to represent characters. According to Robert O. Payne, “Many late medieval writers, like Chaucer, saw that bureaucracy as overelaborate, self-important, and far too blind to fraud and corruption within its own ranks”. With this Payne is explaining that Chaucer knew of the corruption during that time period. This displays how Chaucer uses the nun to convey the motif of imposters by using historical context.

Chaucer also uses the literary element, satire, to convey the motif of imposters. Chaucer explains how “She certainly was very entertaining, / Pleasant and friendly in her ways, and straining / To counterfeit a courtly kind of grace, / A stately bearing fitting to her place, / And to seem dignified in all her dealings”. This quote shows that the nun is acting a little too friendly and flirtatious, which is not typical of a nun, considering they take a vow of chastity and dedicate their lives to the Lord. Chaucer describes her appearance “Her cloak, I noticed, had a graceful charm. / She wore a coral trinket on her arm, / A set of beads, the gaudies tricked in green, / Whence hung a golden brooch of brightest sheen / On which there first was graven a crowned A, / And lower, Amor vincit omnia”. This quote discloses her fancy and elegant appearance, unlike a normal nun who usually does not wear anything expensive because they live in poverty. This expresses how Chaucer conveys the motif of imposters using satire against the nun.

Another way that Chaucer conveys the motif of imposters is by using the character behavior literary element. Chaucer clarifies that the nun spoke “daintily in French, extremely, / After the school of Stratford-atte-Bowe”. This quote presents that the nun is well-educated, which is abnormal for a nun at that time period. Chaucer talks about her mealtime manners, “No morsel from her lips did she let fall, / Nor dipped her fingers in the sauce too deep; / But she could carry a morsel up and keep / The smallest drop from falling on her breast. / For courtliness she had a special zest”. These actions are proof that she must come from a family of wealth, and is too acquainted with the above-average lifestyle. This reveals how Chaucer uses the nun to convey the motif of imposters with the literary element, character behavior.

Using the literary elements historical context, satire, and character behavior, Geoffrey Chaucer conveys the motif of imposters in the Roman Catholic Church with the portrayal of the nun in the narrative poem, The Canterbury Tales. This poem analyzes the way that the nun acted in The Canterbury Tales, which is substantially different from the typical ways of a nun. Chaucer used different literary elements to illustrate the actions and his feelings of each character in the story. The Canterbury Tales is a frame story and although Chaucer wrote many tales after the General Prologue, he never completed the collection of stories due to his death on October 25, 1400.

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