Canterbury Corruption: Corruption and Hypocrisy in the World


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Although you typically think of religious figures being moral compasses, in The Canterbury Tales, the church officials were often seen as corrupt; bribing and coercing people to obtain money for the church under false pretenses. Since members of the church were not allowed to work for a living, they had to gain money by other means.

Chaucer uses certain characters to give insight on how corrupt the whole process of the church was. The Pardoner is one of the most corrupt. “He’d have to preach and tune his honey- tongue, and (well he could) win silver from the crowd.” He loved to pride himself in his signing, and his needs came well before others. People of the church included. “His wallet lay before him on his lap.” The pardoner would flaunt how he could make a profit by “forgiving others of their sins.” His doing would take the burden off one’s shoulders but for a price. The money given to confession was supposed to go towards the church but instead was kept as spending money.

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The Friar depicts how amoral the religious standards were held at that time. “He was a noble pillar to his order.”The Friar’s ‘selling’ of forgiveness is one of the most serious sins the Friar could commit. This is used as a very sarcastic way of putting that he is nowhere near being a religious figure. “He arranged many young women’s marriage at his own expense.”He may sound like a generous man, but Chaucer implies that the Friar arranges these marriages because the young women are his mistresses and, more to the point, pregnant. He is depicted as a devout man in name only, a person who does nothing but corrupt his own church for private gain.

Monks during this time were viewed as holy folk who were not as wealthy as the townspeople. It was typical for them to only live off food donated to the church. “Who rode the country; hunting was his sport.” It is atypical for a monk to hunt for sport, own horses and greyhounds. Especially as well housed, decorated, and well bred as he is. And eat such fine food as roasted goose. “He let go of things of yesterday, and took the modern world’s more spacious way.”He lived a life of luxury in fine clothes, such as extravagant furs, and soft leather boots. His house and stables were anything but sparse. He was reluctant to make time for studying scripture or working the land.

In conclusion, these three men demonstrate corruption in the church. They are supposed to live humble lives in service of the people. Instead they are flashy, money hungry, show offs who take a great deal of money that should rightfully go to the church.

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