Chaucer's Retraction in The Canterbury Tales Essay

Chaucer's Retraction in The Canterbury Tales Essay

Length: 1397 words (4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Chaucer's Retraction in The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer's ability to characterize people from all walks of life in explicit detail, as is so wonderfully displayed in The Canterbury Tales, is just one factor that allowed him to be known as one of history's finest literary artists. At the end of a career that would be considered by most artists as an extremely successful one, what could have caused Chaucer to apologize for any of the works which defined literary success? In "Chaucer's Retraction," which appears at the end of The Canterbury Tales (Norton 311), Chaucer not only apologizes for several of his secular works, he also goes so far as to revoke them, and ask for forgiveness for such works which "tended toward sin" (313), as he puts it. Such an extreme action seems to be somewhat irrational. Some believe that Chaucer, nearing the end of his earthly life, was preparing himself for God's judgment in the afterlife. If, by means of his writings, he was guilty of some grave sin, which would keep him from the eternal bliss of heaven, such a retraction might be considered justifiable. Furthermore, the concept of being tormented in the depths of hell for all eternity could easily persuade any person, especially on his deathbed, to renounce all past actions, good or bad. Maybe it is better to be safe than to be sorry, forever. While it is impossible to truly discern Chaucer's reasoning, assuming him to be the actual author of this passage, a closer examination of the "offending" text, as well as a look at some of the social and religious influences of the time period, might give us a clue as to why such a gifted poet would take this position.

The dominant theme of the pilgrimage in The Canterbury Tales illustrates one obvious religious...

... middle of paper ...

...xed with molten lead, brass and other kinds of metal; immense worms with poisonous teeth gnawed at some; others were fastened on by one on stakes with fiery thorns. The torturers tore them with their nails, flogged them with dreadful scourges, and lacerated them in dreadful agonies [The Monk of Evesham's Vision, 1197] (qtd. in Speed 4).

When facing the end of one's life, the notion of spending all eternity in such a place would surely make even the most avid non-believer think twice. A true believer in Christianity might very well think that it is much better to be safe, than to be sorry forever.

Works Cited

"Chaucer's Retraction." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Seventh Edition. Volume1. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W.W.Norton and Company, Inc., 2000.

Speed, Peter, ed. Those Who Prayed, An Anthology of Medieval Sources. New York: Italica Press, 1997.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales Essay

- Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer comments on moral corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. He criticizes many high-ranking members of the Church and describes a lack of morality in medieval society; yet in the “Retraction,” Chaucer recants much of his work and pledges to be true to Christianity. Seemingly opposite views exist within the “Retraction” and The Canterbury Tales. However, this contradiction does not weaken Chaucer’s social commentary. Rather, the “Retraction” emphasizes Chaucer’s criticism of the Church and society in The Canterbury Tales by reinforcing the risk inherent in doing so....   [tags: Chaucer Canterbury Tales Essays]

Powerful Essays
924 words (2.6 pages)

Powerful Satire in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Essay

- Powerful Satire in The Canterbury Tales If one theme can be considered overriding or defining throughout Medieval European society, it would most likely be the concept of social class structure. During this early historical period in Europe, most of society was divided into three classes or 'estates:' the workers, the nobles, and the clerics. By Chaucer's time, however, the powerful estate structure had begun to wear down. Weaknesses in the system became apparent, as many people, such as Chaucer himself, seemed to no longer belong to any one of the three estates....   [tags: Canterbury Tales Essays]

Powerful Essays
3469 words (9.9 pages)

Essay on Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales: The Parson’s Tale

- Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales: The Parson’s Tale The critical acclaim for The Canterbury Tales as a whole is matched by the puzzlement over the work’s conclusion, the “Parson’s Tale” and Chaucer’s retraction. By modern standards, it hardly seems the “merry tale” the Parson promises his audience, and after the liveliness of much of the rest of the Tales, it appears to close the work not with a bang, but a whimper. However, this does not mean that the tale and retraction aren’t worthy of consideration, both independently and in the larger context of Chaucer’s masterpiece....   [tags: Chaucer Canterbury Parson Essays]

Powerful Essays
2217 words (6.3 pages)

Essay on Power and Corruption in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

- The Canterbury Tales is a very popular and well known set of stories, written by Geoffrey Chaucer. This collection of stories is great entertainment and some even provide very good moral lessons; most of these stories show the contempt Chaucer had for the Church of England which had control at the time over most of England. Chaucer’s bias towards the corruption of the Church is best demonstrated in the Pardoner’s Prologue, in contradiction with the Parson’s Tale, and the level of power within the Church structure....   [tags: the church, leader, pardoner]

Powerful Essays
1558 words (4.5 pages)

Analysis Of The General Prologue To The Canterbury Tales Essay

- Religion has long since been an important factor in society, changing and evolving throughout the centuries. In medieval Europe, religious pilgrimages were a crucial part of ones religious faith. Often every one in society, from the highest of class to the lowest order was involved in this practice. Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the most important writers in English literature, was the author of The Canterbury Tales, an elaborate poem about the religious pilgrimage of twenty nine people to Canterbury....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales Essays]

Powerful Essays
1046 words (3 pages)

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Essay - The Strong Wife of Bath

- The Strong Wife of Bath     Alison of Bath as a battered wife may seem all wrong, but her fifth husband, Jankyn, did torment her and knock her down, if not out, deafening her somewhat in the process. Nevertheless, the Wife of Bath got the upper hand in this marriage as she had done in the other four and as she would probably do in the sixth, which she declared herself ready to welcome. Alison certainly ranks high among women able to gain control over their mates.   The Wife of Bath's personality, philosophy of sexuality, and attitude toward sovereignty in marriage obviously are offered as comedy....   [tags: Wife of Bath Essays]

Powerful Essays
1101 words (3.1 pages)

The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer Essay

- Geoffrey Chaucer’s deep poetic sensibility, combined with his strong understanding of human nature, gave him the ability to observe surrounding life with a creative insight and power. In his anthology, The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer exhibits many of his great attentions to people while walking through the English countryside. Some of these characters include the Clerk, the Sergeant of the Lawe, and the Wife of Bath. Geoffrey Chaucer’s careful and astute observations of people in The Canterbury Tales indicate that he is an accurate and insightful onlooker....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer]

Powerful Essays
860 words (2.5 pages)

The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer Essay

- ... This style of architecture was characterized by pointed arches, tall designs and flying buttresses (a support that allowed for a more even distribution of weight), and tall vaulted ceilings. The Gothic architecture lends itself to a dramatic romantic feel, providing a great backdrop for storytelling and stirs feelings of grandeur. The Canterbury Cathedral which is the destination of the pilgrims in the Tales, is an excellent example of the gothic style of architecture. Geoffrey Chaucer was a masterful story teller....   [tags: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales]

Powerful Essays
1885 words (5.4 pages)

Chaucer 's The Canterbury Tales Essay

- ... Chaucer worked in the court of King Edward III, who was one of the first kings to use the English language commonly. Chaucer was also one of the first authors of his time to use the English language in public writings. Because of his use of the common language, people were able to enjoy Chaucer’s stories to their full extent. Chaucer is also known for authoring a romantic poem entitled, Troilus and Criseyde. He also wrote an informational text about sea navigation called Treatise on the Astrolabe, as well as several other short poems....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer]

Powerful Essays
1216 words (3.5 pages)

Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales Essay

- Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales While the majority of literary classics today do well at engaging the reader and allowing them a vicarious understanding of a fictitious character’s life, Chaucer found a way to engage more than just the reader and the character. In his Canterbury Tales, Chaucer masterfully links together himself as the author, himself as a character in the story, the other characters, and then finally the readers. Chaucer’s “narrative flow” forms a type of giant sphere, where connections can be made from both characters and real people to characters connecting with other characters....   [tags: Chaucer Canterbury Tales Essays]

Powerful Essays
628 words (1.8 pages)