The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer's Ideal Character

In The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer uses the character traits of the clergy to exemplify the ideal character. Chaucer’s members of the clergy display ideal characteristics such as generosity, righteousness, and servitude. Through exploration of the lifestyles of the clergy, Chaucer distinguishes the truly ideal, pious servants from secular and self-centered men.

Chaucer introduces several members of the clergy in The Prologue but the Parson stands out as a clergyman who is true to his duty, possessing a generous heart. Unlike numerous other corrupt members of the clergy, the Parson exudes a genuine attitude of love and care towards his fellow neighbours by “giving to poor parishioners round about/ Both from church offerings and his property” (line 486-487). Shown through his munificent deeds, the Parson exemplifies a great generosity that Chaucer admires and respects. By giving from his own possessions, the Parson illustrates a clear example of a remarkable man who is not bound by worldly matters. Jesus Christ teaches that “if thou wilt be perfect…give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21). The Parson is not only a man who refuses to conform to the secular ways of being...

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