The Canterbury Tales : Two Character Exegesis Essay

The Canterbury Tales : Two Character Exegesis Essay

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Canterbury Tales: Two Character Exegesis

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer are a collection of Middle English short stories written about a group of pilgrims telling tales as they journey to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. In this collection of tales, Chaucer introduces a slew of interesting characters representing all walks of life who present intriguing stories of their lives. The character of Chaucer serves as our guide throughout this story. Chaucer’s narration is unique in that we see him both as someone who could be there in the tavern with the group but at other times, Chaucer is a narrator who seems to know far more than he should. With this type of narration, we gain different perspectives on the pilgrims and are granted the opportunity to search for a deeper meaning within the story.
When reading old stories I can’t help but wonder what these characters would be like in the modern world or a modern interpretation. In this paper I will compare two of Chaucer’s characters using both the interpretation of the characters as written and how those same characters would be interpreted today. The two roles I will be discussing are the Wife of Bath and the Summoner. I will attempt to show that although the Wife of Bath was supported as a good woman in part because of her sexual prowess as the character was written, the same sort of character - were she to tell her tale today - would be shamed and looked down upon as promiscuous and unworthy. The Summoner, on the other hand, would not be reinterpreted very differently and would be as reviled today as he was at the time of writing. His corruption, lechery and drunkenness would still be condemned.
In the Wife of Bath’s portrait she is described as heavy, blu...

... middle of paper ...

Of cursyng oghte ech gilty man him drede,
For curs wol slee right as assoillyng savith,
As can be seen there are no good traits shown in the description of the Summoner. This type of person would be universally reviled today as well if he were to be represented in the same way.
Society today is still, for the most part, willing and ready to accept ill thoughts about others without ever looking deeper, as illustrated by the Summoner. However it has become much harder to accept the good without skepticism and almost a need to tear the character down in some way, as demonstrated by the way I believe the Wife of Bath would be characterized today. This particular work of Chaucer’s has been described as a critique of society during his lifetime with use of subtle satire. Using todays criterion I believe the text would be far less nuanced and considerably more crass.

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