Canterbury Tales By Chaucer And Medieval

In the Prologue to the Caterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer is almost always polite
and respectful when he points out the foibles and weaknesses of people. He is
able to do this by using genial satire, which is basically having a pleasant or
friendly disposition while ridiculing human vices and follies. Chaucer also
finds characteristics in the pilgrims that he admires. This is evident in the
peaceful way he describes their attributes. The Nun is one of the pilgrims in
which Chaucer uses genial satire to describe. He defines her as a woman who is,

"Pleasant and friendly in her ways, and straining/ To counterfeit a courtly
kind of grace" ( l.l. 136-137). Instead of bluntly saying she is of the lower
class and trying unsuccessfully to impersonate a member of the upper class

Chaucer suggests it gentle, therefore the reader must be attentive to pick up on
it. He also pokes fun at the Nunís impersonated French accent when he says
that she spoke: with a fine Intoning through her nose, as was most seemly, And
she spoke daintily in French, extremely, After the school of Stratford-atte-Bowe;

French in the Paris style she did not know. (l.l. 120-124) Chaucer finds the

Nunís speech amusing but he carefully chooses his words so as not to be
disrespectful. Chaucer also uses genial satire when illustrating the Nunís
size; "She was indeed by no means undergrown" (l. 154). He puts the fact
that she is fat in a polite way because he finds the Nun "very entertaining"
(l. 135) and thus doesnít speak ill of her even though there is much ill to be
said. Instead he uses genial satire to describe the Nun so that he may remain
courteous and respectful. Chaucer finds the Monk less amusing and more repulsive
than the Nun but none the less he describes him in a polite manner so that the
reader must pay attention in order to fully realize the Monks faults. The main
problem that Chaucer has with the Monk is that he shows very little religious
devotion. The Monk frequently engages in activities opposite in nature to that
which is expected from a man of his position: He did not rate that text at a
plucked hen Which says that hunter are not holy men And that a monk uncloistered
is a mere Fish out of water, flapping on the pier, That is to say a monk out of
his cloister. That was a text he held not worth an oyster; And I agreed and said
his views were sound; Was he to study till his head went round Poring over books
in cloisters? (l.l. 175-183) A monk is expected to show his religious devotion
by following the text of the bible as best he can, stay in his cloister and
study constantly. This monk however does not follow the text as he hunts, is out
of his cloister and has never been seen studying. Chaucer could be have been
very straight forward and critical of the Monks poor choices but instead he uses
genial satire to show the Monks faults without disgracing himself. Chaucer even
jokes at the end of the above quote when he agrees with the Monk and says,

"Was he to study till his head went round", of course he was he is a monk
(l. 182). Chaucer uses genial satire in a slightly different way when describing
the Oxford Cleric. Instead of forming a clear impression in the readers mind as
too whether or not the Oxford Cleric is a good man he simply tells it as it is
thus leaving the reader to determine it for themselves based on their own
values. Chaucer describes the Oxford Cleric as a man whoís: horse was thinner
than a rake, And he was not too fat, I undertake, But had a hollow look, a sober
stare; The thread upon his overcoat was bare. (l.l. 291-294). This is a polite
way of saying that the Oxford Cleric not only neglected his own health and
personal appearance but also the health of his horse as they were both extremely
skinny and his clothes consisted of bare threads. He neglected his and his
horseís heath because he spent all his money and some of his friends money on
books, which Chaucer also pokes fun at using genial satire: By his bed He
preferred having twenty books in red And black, of Aristotleís philosophy, To
having fine clothes, fiddle or psaltery. . . . .