The Canterbury Tales

Dante and Chaucer: Trailblazers for the Reformation of the Catholic Church College

To the heedless reader, Dante’s Inferno and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales are generally interpreted as mere works of fiction designed and created for the sole purpose of entertainment. To fully glean the authors’ intended message, though, one must carefully analyze the rhetoric and style of each work. If both pieces of art are not attentively examined, the reader would neglect Dante’s and Chaucer’s layered themes of the criticisms of church representatives’ behaviors in their poems. These influential artists anticipated the beginnings of the Catholic Reformation, exemplified heavily in Inferno and The Canterbury Tales. In the view of the authors, Catholic church officials were found to be flawed in that they were incredibly corrupt and placed a sinful emphasis on worldly wealth. Nearly a century before the era of the Reformation, starting in 1517 with Martin Luther’s Theses, Dante and Chaucer both catalyzed the movement for the Reformation by subtly rebuking the church, indirectly through their works of fiction.

Although Dante offers sharp commentary of the politics of his home city-state of Florence throughout the Inferno, his commentary about the position of church officials is of especial interest. His criticism his...

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