In his work “The Canterbury Tales”, Geoffrey Chaucer took great care to have the narrator describe each of the pilgrims in much detail. One of these pilgrims was a Prioresse, Madame Eglantine. Just as with the others, the narrator observed her and displayed a portrait of her in the General Prologue. However, in addition to describing the Prioress, the General Prologue’s description of her also includes some irony.
Madame Eglantine is a Prioress, which is another name for the head nun of a convent. Since readers are told that she is a nun, we know that she is of the church, or clergy estate. This class was higher than the commoners but lower than the royal nobility. However, if we look closer at the details given by the narrator, we see that although we are told she is of the clergy, she actually shows signs of being from another class. Madame Eglantine was well-educated, which was uncommon in those times, except in the noble. She learned French at the Stratford at the Brow school (line 125). She ate and acted very proper and dainty. She took great care to ensure that no food was strewn (lines 128-38). In addition, she fed her pet dogs fancy food, including fine white bread, which was nicer than what some people had to eat (lines 146-7). Although we are told that she was of the church, there are many details in the General Prologue that lead we readers to believe that she actually had roots in the nobility.
After reading the description of Madame Eglantine, the Prioresse, it’s easy to see that she is a nun, who has some noble characteristics. However, there is much more to be interpreted from the story. One example of the irony of her character is the fact that she is now a nun. The fact that she shows so many characteristics of being of the noble class leads us to believe that she was once a member of that class. She was most likely of royal birth but became pregnant out of wedlock as a teenager or young woman. Because of this, her family...
An Observation Of The Nun Prioress
The character of the Prioress in Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" is a woman of two faces. She is introduced in the General Prologue as an aristocratic, genteel, pious nun, however her actions may speak louder then words.
In the reading "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer, there is a detailed description about the nun Prioress in the "General Prologue". Chaucer uses physical and spiritual relationships to show the characteristics of a person. To describe how the nun was, Chaucer writes with irony in the description of the nun Prioress, everything that Chaucer says about her means the opposite. One of the most noticeable elements of irony Chaucer uses is the Prioress' name introduced in the General Prologue "Madame Eglantine" a name that symbolizes the Virgin Mary. This naming of the Prioress by Chaucer after a flower symbolizing Mary is ironic, because Mary is the embodiment of love and mercy. These are two things that the Prioress is suppose to represent as a nun, but does not value them much over all. This in itself is a satire on the part of Chaucer; he chose a name for his Prioress that was opposite with her actual character.
Being a nun in the Middle Ages required one to take three vows poverty, humility, and obedience. However Chaucer describes the nun with opposite traits to show us, how the she had all the characteristics that a nun should not have. She was well educated and had good manners "She spoke French well and properly after the school of Stratford-at-Bow(124-125). She also showed charitably and pity, and also a strong love for God and his creations. "She would weep if she saw mouse caught in a trap" (144-145). Chaucer connects the relationship between how she sang and with her nose. When it came to relating her physical and spiritual beauty the author uses hidden sarcasm. "She sang the divine service well, entuning it in her nose in a most seemly way." (122-123). All of these characteristics show how the nun Prioress was focused on things that should not be important for a nun.
Among her minor things, the nun in the tale actions was cautious and splendid. Her manners were unique, and practiced with perfection. "Her table manners were admirable: she never let a morsel fall from her lips, nor wet her fingers too deeply in the sauce; daintily she carried a morsel to her lips, taking care that no drop should fall on her breast: she took much pleasure in proper etiquette." (133) The author makes the reader think that such perfect behavior was obligated....
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