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Chaucer satirically depicts how churches were involved in perpetrating corruption within the society. The corruption was practiced by the Catholic Church that was dominant at the time. A great deal of gold was used for decorating and equipping the church. The churches were also very expensive to build. The author gives a vivid picture of how people were suffering from diseases, famine, and plaques, among other societal problems, while the church continued to store large amounts of unused gold. This is a major form of corruption as this gold could be sold to alleviate the problem that their members were going through (Pearsall, 124). In fact, this gold was just used as ornaments, something that was unfair to most individuals. Indeed, the church was at the forefront of preaching against greed, and yet they were the ones perpetrating the spirit of hypocrisy and agreed. This applied to the great display of gold they kept in the church for no use. Notably, this was a sign of material possession that they were preaching against. In addition, the excesses of the church resulted into stories of how the leaders of the church were greed and irreligious while dealing with the affairs of their members (Collette, 19). The churchmen also accepted bribes, as well as indulging in activities that showed how rich they were, thus ignoring the plight of peasants who came knocking at their doors begging for food.
The Canterbury Tales shows various religious figures deviating from what was expected from them. Their conduct was questionable, and Chaucer states that the Monk who lived in the monastery and the Prioress who lived in the convent preferred an aristocratic way of life to a life of devotion. Their mannerism and craving for higher standards of living vividly shows that they had deviated from their devotional life to live like the nobles, while using the church resources (Kolve, 86). They also accepted money to hear a confession. Sometimes, they could even use threats to acquire money from their members. Surprisingly, the priests were also involved in extracting money from the people. This culminated in fierce competition among clergymen because they wanted to preserve their way of life. In the long run, the church acted as an instrument of oppressing poor peasants instead of helping them sort out their problems (Cooper, 42). Moreover, Chaucer states that there was hidden hostility between the clergymen. Although Pardoner and the Monk had different characteristics, as related by Chaucer, they were involved in corruption in order to continue with their aristocratic life.
“The Pardoner Tale” portrays the class of clergymen. Pardoner is depicted as a man who only works in the church, as well as relieves people from the sin they had committed. However, Pardoner did not play his role the way he was supposed to. For instance, he sells scrolls to people who had committed sins as an act of relieving them the sins (Pearsall, 58). Despite the fact that Pardoner knows very well that he is committing sins, he is not willing to refrain from his evil acts. His story vividly shows the extent to which the church corruption had gone. Moreover, it shows the true face of clergymen during the Medieval Age. Pardoner sold the scrolls in order to finance his life that was far beyond the required roles of Pardoner.
Role of Class Structures in Development of the Tales
In the Canterbury Tales, class structures heavily influenced the development of the tale. As earlier stated, Chaucer divides the society into three major classes, such as aristocracy, middle class and theocracy. These three classes are composed of different individuals who possess distinct character traits. In this case, theocracy is made of clergymen, such as the clerks, the Monk, and the Prioress among others. The middle class is made up of such characters as Knight, Wife of Bath, Squire, Nicholas and Alison, among others. The aristocracy class is made up of the nobles (Collette, 36). Thus, it is evident that class structures help Chaucer develop his story line based on characterization. Moreover, class structures enable him to easily assign the roles of each character. As a result, the characters are able to assume their roles independent from each other and avoid conflict of interest among the characters involved in the tales. Notably, the middle class are the majority which influences the direction in which the tale takes. The two other classes rely on the middle class (Rubin, 245). For instance, the nobles make laws to be used by the peasant, the majority of whom were from the middle class. On the other hand, the theocracy relies on the middle class as their members for the church to continue with its activities. The clergymen used their power and influence to oppress the public on various matters. They also extracted money from the public to finance their high standards of living.
The essence of social structure is evident in how Knight’s and Miller’s tales are brought out. The writer developed each story based on their social class. The Knight’s tale is depicted as being more honorable and from the upper class (Collette, 312). On the other hand, Miller’s tale is said to be rude, whereby the society is involved in committing various vices. As a result, the writer is able to develop his story and deliver the message to the readers by drawing a clear distinction between the upper and lower class.