The Friar and the Parson, as described in the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales, can be used to portray both the good and the bad sides of clergy. They make a stark contrast to each other, often even directly, with their characteristics as told by the narrator. From physical traits to their actions, these two pilgrims are almost exact opposites in certain ways. Their motivations for these actions describe the differences in the mind sets of the good holy man and the one who is less true to his orders, the Parson and the Friar respectively. Throughout their portraits, the descriptions of the two are set at odds, so as to highlight their contrariety.
A revealing comparison can be made in the matter of money between the Parson and the Friar as to the monetary motivations of the clergy. The Parson was a poor man. He took out of the tithes given to him by parishoners and his salary to give back to them, as “rather wolde he yeven […] / unto his povre parisshens about/ of his offering, and eek of his substaunce.” (487-489) The Friar on the other hand was wealthy, and would rather take from the poor to increase his income than to give, “for thogh a widwe hadde noght a sho/ […] yet wolde he have a ferthing, er he wente.” (253-255) The actions of the Parson make those of the Friar look even worse. The Parson cares little for his own wealth, but is a great deal concerned about the poverty of his parishoners. The Friar cares very little about poverty, but is terribly concerned about his own income. On the subject of personal wealth, these two men may be seen as complete opposites, one showing the horror and inappropriate actions of the other, and th...
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... his preaching. He can be seen as a good example of how a clergyman should be. The Friar on the other hand in deed, speech, motives, and reasoning, is questionable in relation to his position. He is a selfish man who will take from, but not be amongst the poor since there is little good it will do him. Instead of using his office to do good works and to lead people closer to religion, he uses it for personal profit. His piety is less than devout, as it is insinuates that he is a lecherous man who is very interested in women. He would rather be among the wealthy than be true to his orders. In contrast to the Parson, he is not a good example of a clergyman. These pilgrims work together to show good and bad instances of men of the church, and comment on eachother in their characteristics in a way that highlights the qualities of one and the faults of the other.
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