Chaucer’s Satire Essay

1070 words - 5 pages

“One may say that pilgrimages are just as much about the journey as they are about the destination.” (Higl) Pilgrimages are very important to religions around the world. They are important for people when they are working on a deeper faith, and these pilgrimages are to places of great importance. It is important to note that people do not only learn when they are at their destination, but also on the trip to those destinations. “The Canterbury Tales”, Chaucer’s unfinished work, was a group of stories about a group on pilgrimage, but the stories did not take place at the destination. These were stories told on the way to Canterbury. They were also very satiric stories. They showed great hypocrisy, and immorality. The stories seemed to have a purpose, and to be pointed towards specific audiences. These audiences would most likely have taken Chaucer’s work as a joke at first, but then quickly seen how the words cut sharply into the way that people lived during that time. Using Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”, you can analyze his use of satire to reach specific audiences, three of which include the church, the common man, and those married, or intended to be.
“The Pardoner’s Prologue” is an introduction given by the Pardoner to his fellow pilgrims, and his prologue is one of the greatest moments of satire used by Chaucer in all of “The Canterbury Tales”. The Pardoner is a man that preaches to groups, and he pardons them of their sins, after given a tithe. He tells the group how he will reach about others greed to get the greatest tithe, then use that money for himself. “Pardoner is someone who emphasizes seemingly hypocritical excesses in his own character.” (Boenig) He is the one that shows of his hypocrisy, no other character is needed to bring it out. This is a complete calling out of all members of the church. It brings skepticism to the entire church, because the people cannot know that every clergyman is not this way. The satiric showing of the Pardoner greatly angers church officials, which is exactly what Chaucer expected. He made the Pardoner a very selfish man; the greater extreme would bring out the greatest response. “I'll have my money, wool, and food . . . from the poorest widow in the shire; Although her kids be starving, I'll be fine.” (PP lines 448-451) He is fine with taking money from a mother with a starving family, even though she would put it to better use. Chaucer’s satire quickly caught the attention he wanted from the church.
Chaucer began his works with descriptions of the pilgrims in “The General Prologue”, and he used satire in these to reach the common man of the time. The common man would not relate to a knight, to a pastor, or to a man of the law, but they would relate to a carpenter, a weaver, or a cook much more easily. Men of the church receive a great amount of satire, but “the rest . . . are treated with varying degrees of satire.” (Brewer) Some characters received a great...

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