The Canterbury Tales

Satire in The Canterbury Tales College

From corrupt politicians to Real Housewives of Orange County, symbols of hypocrisy in modern day society exude personas that are ripe for criticism. These symbols also exist in Geoffrey Chaucer’s prominent anthropological work The Canterbury Tales, attesting to the endurance of class structure and its affect on human behavior throughout history. To depict his interpretation of society during the Middle Ages, Chaucer satirizes the differences between his characters’ flaws and their perceived propriety, implying that their selfishness impedes their ability to act morally. Specifically, he targets three aspects of society that crumble beneath the power of hypocrisy: expertise, wealth, and religion.

While readers expect the well-educated characters to convey respectable qualities, Chaucer exploits their pretentiousness instead. They concentrate too much on their esteemed image in society and too little on their actual work. The Sergeant of the Law, a supposedly wise man, “was less busy than he seemed to be” (Chaucer 322). He emits an exaggerated air of professionalism to gain respect. Likewise, the Doctor acts extremely knowledgeable in the field of medicine, yet his unscientific methods indicate his fraudulence. Although “he was a...

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