The Prioress inA The Canterbury TalesA written by Geoffrey Chaucer embodies two opposite characters. Initially introduced in the General Prologue as an blue nun, the abbess is subsequently shown to stand for anti-semitic attitudes as good. Chaucer describes her as an unworldly, un-Christian, and infantile character. These features reveal three major concluding points. An scrutiny of her properties in the General Prologue associating to her character, the guiltless characters in “ The Prioress ‘s narrative ” , the little male child and his female parent, therefore the abbess ‘s connexion to maternity, and the abbess ‘s narrative of force displayA Chaucer ‘s purpose in the word picture of the abbess and his ain societal values, doing a negative statement about the clergy of his clip.
The abbess ‘ visual aspect is recognized multiple times throughout the book in ways that contradict the stereotyped nun. One peculiar case of this is when the prologue describes her forheads as “ carnival of spread/ Almost a span across the foreheads ” ( Chaucer 6 ) . Harmonizing to Maureen Hourigan, this contradicts the fact that nuns were supposed to tightly trap their head coverings to cover their superciliums and brow. Besides, her bare brow is a mark of birthrate and contradicts the fact that nuns were expected to adhere to their vows of celibacy. Here, Chaucer criticizes the Prioress ‘s involvement in being the stereotype of female aristocracy, loving jewellery and expensive apparels. In add-on, “ she had small Canis familiariss she would be feeding/ With roasted flesh, or milk, or all right white staff of life ” ( Chaucer 7 ) . When nutrient was scarce and limited, feeding Canis familiariss what many worlds were unable to acquire for themselves indicates a well-mannered upper-class adult female ‘s tenderhearted feelings towards pets. The Prioress ‘s benevolence contrasts against her vengefulness and merciless attitude towards the Jews in the terminal. Furthermore, as a bookman, Condren states, “ the Prioress ‘s stamp attention for her hounds argues the gradualness of her nature, but raises inquiries about her position, we are startled by the sort of nutrient she feeds her animate beings, since [ books of the clip urge ] soft meats and staff of life softened with milk as ideal nutrients for ablactating babies, we wonder if defeat has non possibly directed the Prioress ‘s maternal inherent aptitudes toward her pets ” ( Condren 194 ) .
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Along with her off-track aspirations, the Prioress ‘s empty artlessness carries over to “ The Prioress ‘s Tale ” . When it was her bend to talk, the Prioress decides to talk about her rampant antisemitism and ulterior garbages to confer clemency on the scoundrels, demoing a different adult female than that introduced in the General Prologue.
The Prioress compares herself to the Virgin Mary and depict herself as inexperienced person, unworldly, and immature. These are the exact qualities that Chaucer intends the readers to pick up on as they attempt to understand the message in the narrative of the Prioress. As a farther indicant of the Prioress ‘s connexion with artlessness and childhood, in her prologue, “ [ I ] n congratulations of God and his Blessed Mother, [ she ] will labour to state a narrative – [ in the narrative, ] In congratulations of the Blessed Mother the clergeon struggles to larn, and eventually sings theA Alma redemptoris mater ” ( Condren 201 ) . This indicates another connexion that the Prioress has towards a kid. The Prioress ‘s narrative is designed to pull understanding for the immature Christian male child who was murdered by the evil Jews. She uses powerful emotionally-charged linguistic communication.
As Friedman says, “ one may reasonably argue that her sentimental understanding with the small clergeon lacks mature withdrawal, that she enters excessively wholly into the kid ‘s universe, so that she identifies with him ” ( Friedman 125 ) . This is the key to apprehension of her narrative, the manner that she tricks the readers by utilizing hapless linguistic communication to derive understanding from her hearers. While this sort of storytelling fast one was common in stating of spiritual narratives, the Prioress fails to link the clemency and compassion that are normally shown in spiritual narratives to her ain, neglecting to copy the benevolent nun portrayed to be like the Virgin Mary. Furthermore, the Prioress ‘s use of mournful linguistic communication is one factor that enhances the effectivity of her narrative. It is important, nevertheless, to besides analyze Chaucer ‘s purpose. Her narrative is extremely spiritual, and hence Chaucer ‘s ain spiritual positions are extremely relevant in any scrutiny of her character being Christian. The increased force of the narrative and antisemitism demonstrates Chaucer ‘s purposes of the narrative. On one manus the Prioress congratulationss and values artlessness, while she besides expresses her apparent hungering for blood and retribution, shown through the accent on the virginity of the slain male child and the parallel indicating out her artlessness.
In add-on to the Prioress ‘s looking connexion to artlessness and the helpless is her evident desire for maternity. The Prioress seems to experience a connexion with in her narrative to the female parent of the slain male child. Although the Prioress would evidently non hold any kids, being a member of the clergy, she shows her fussing inherent aptitudes in the General Prologue when she treats her little Canis familiariss as kids, as antecedently seen, and by her protectiveness towards the kid in the narrative. It is merely when the widow seeks the aid of the justness that the Jews cooperate with the hunt for the male child. This is important in that the Prioress relates to the widow in the narrative, and the fact that the widow is unable to make anything but call and beg, says something about the Prioress ‘s ain weakness and failing of character. Besides, “ [ T ] he widow ‘s inability to turn up her boy analogues, both thematically and structurally, the Prologue ‘s claim that no lingua can show Mary ‘s properties ” ( Condren 201 ) . This is another connexion to the Prioress, who in the prologue is most concerned with her ain inability to right praise the Virgin. The manner that the Prioress refers to the Virgin Mary in her narrative besides shows her connexion to earthly maternity ; she refers to Mary as “ Cristes moder, ” and mentions the earthly construct of birth in connexion to Mary. However, there is a difference between the Prioress ‘s maternal feelings, and the soft nurturing nature of a nun.
At the terminal of her narrative, the Prioress prays, “ Pray clemency on our faltering stairss, that thus/ Merciful God may multiply on us/ His clemency, though we be unstable and vary/ In love and fear of His female parent Mary. Amons ” ( Chaucer 176 ) . When the Prioress asks for clemency for herself and all the evildoers listening to her narrative, she is non cognizant that she is beliing herself. By inquiring for clemency for her and other Christians, while disregarding the thought of giving that selfsame clemency to the Jews, her dogmatism becomes obvious. One of the Chaucer bookmans, Ames says, “ the Prioress does non see that her supplication for clemency on ‘us evildoers ‘ is inconsistent with this ardor for ‘justice ‘ against the Jews ” ( Ames 200 ) . Chaucer has the Prioress use the word ‘mercy, ‘ three times in her concluding supplication. In this manner Chaucer is doing a bold statement about how he himself feels about the Prioress, and how he wants his readers to see her: as a hypocritical, shallow, and sad figure of a adult female.
The ignorance of the universe as the Prioress was stating her narrative is another cardinal component. This is represented as a fright of the universe in characters like the Prioress. The concluding statement drawn would be that the religion is unsafe and presuming. There are those who assert that Chaucer was profoundly spiritual and portrayed that side of himself in his Prioress. Robert Frank asserts that “ there is no ground to doubt that [ Chaucer ] shared the spiritual religion of his clip. Such grounds as we have suggests that he was straight, piously spiritual, with a particular love for the Virgin Mary ” ( Frank 146 ) . There are those critics who clearly see irony in Chaucer ‘s word picture of the Prioress. Other critics argue that the Prioress ‘s narrative far exceeds the degree of antisemitism in much of the other literature during that clip, and that her degrees of force in the narrative show a preference to be harsher to the Jews than was the usage of the period. To the modern readers, antisemitism is an obvious portion of the Tale. However, whether the Prioress is merely reflecting anti-semitic positions of the clip or she is more opinionative than the mean provincial of the Middle Ages is non every bit important as the disclosures about the Prioress ‘s character that come out during her narrative, aided by her bias and the observations that the reader is able to do by the words and phrases that she uses to state the narrative.
All of these factors combine to demo the double nature of the Prioress. It is shown that the Prioress described in the General Prologue is a really dissimilar adult female whose true character comes out in the relation of her narrative. Besides addressed is the most of import factor in finding the Prioress ‘s true motives: her association with childhood, artlessness, and maternity, which show her deficiency of piousness aspirations. The following factor that has been analyzed is Chaucer ‘s purpose in his word picture of the Prioress. Chaucer ‘s usage of sarcasm in other narratives strongly suggests a leaning to make the same in his description of the Prioress. Finally, the narrative itself has been carefully studied, and parallels have besides been examined in order to demo the violent nature of the Prioress ‘s version, and how that expresses her character. A close expression at the possible motives for the Prioress ‘s narrative being so bloodstained, when compared to other versions of the narrative, shows her un-Christian character and merciless attitude.A
The Prioress of “ The Prioress ‘s Tale ” illustrates the double nature of the Prioress and, eventually, a spot about Chaucer ‘s purpose in his word picture of the Prioress. Vital to her character are his ain spiritual values and satirical voice in his word pictures of other pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales. Furthermore, the Prioress is the antithesis of a pious nun during the Middle Ages. Chaucer uses this word picture of her to demo his ain spiritual trepidations, and to do a statement about the clergy of his clip. His portraiture of the Prioress as a adult female and a nun of many contradictions is the true ground for her presence as a pilgrim in TheA Canterbury Tales.