Literature Studies: “The Canterbury Tales” by G. Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales represent Medieval English literature. The work was written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the XIV century. The character of Nun Prioress was depicted by the author in the General Prologue, where he described her with irony and subtle humor.
The Canterbury Tales present the stories narrated by the pilgrims traveling to Canterbury to worship the relics of Thomas Becket. In the General Prologue, Chaucer describes how diverse the company of the pilgrims is. The character of Nun Prioress is rather interesting, taking into account the irony and criticism, which the author uses to describe her.
Chaucer uses such terms as the criticism by omission as well as misplaced sympathy to characterize her. The former term can be explained as the intentional omission of the detailed description or the insufficient attention to the situation or character. In such a way, the author shows his attitude towards them. The later term can be explained as the sympathy to someone, who does not deserve it.
As regards the character of Nun Prioress in The Canterbury Tales, we can see that the author devotes only forty-five lines of the General Prologue to it. However, in these lines, we can see the subtle irony about her.
“Full well she sang the service divine
Entuned in her nose full seemingly” (“The Progress and Her Tale” 1).
Chaucer criticizes the religious community of his time. He portrays the character of Nun Prioress to show how its members try to live a life of the rich person.
“And French she spake full fair and feisty
After the school of Stratford at the Bow,
For French of Paris was to her unknown” (“The Prioress and Her Tale” 1).
From these lines, we get to know that Nun Prioress tries to imitate the grand people by speaking French. It was considered as a language superior to English at that time, and the wealthy spoke French in day-to-day life. However, Non-Prioress seems funny when trying to speak a foreign language. She has never been to Paris but is eager to prove her high status in English society.
I think that the author tries to reveal the true nature of many of the representatives of the religious community and to show that they are not the saints. They are just ordinary people with their desires and ambitions. Besides, he tries to emphasize that many of them forget that they should teach the modesty by their example.
The author pays special attention to her appearance, indicating that, although she is a nun, she is dressed like the woman of the world. She has a bracelet with the inscription “Amor Vincit Omnia” meaning “Love Conquers All” (“Chaucer’s Pilgrims” n.pag.).
Although her dress and accessories make her elegant, they are, obviously, misplaced and make her look funny. I think the concept of misplaced sympathy is most apparent in the lines, which describe her appearance.
To sum up all above mentioned, it should be said that the character of Nun Prioress takes an important place in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer in spite of the fact that the author devotes only a little part of the General Prologue to her character.
Chaucer intentionally omits the detailed description of Nun Prioress to criticize the religious community of his time. He only describes her habits and her appearance by expressing misplaced sympathy with her.
“Chaucer’s Pilgrims and Their Clothing”. Sitemaker.umich.edu. n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013.
The Prioress and Her Tale. n.d. PDF file. 29 Nov. 2013. http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/webcore/murphy/canterbury/16prithme.pdf