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Posted on September 9th, 2012, by

Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”¯ mirror the basic cultural and social trends of the epoch. Many of his tales are quite ironic and even critical in a way, in regard to the existing social and cultural norms. Naturally, Geoffrey Chaucer could not ignore religious aspects of human life at that epoch since religion apparently influenced practically all spheres of human life at the epoch. However, Geoffrey Chaucer is not a thoughtless adept of Catholicism, but he is rather a critical observer, who is often quite ironic in relation to religious feelings of his contemporaries.

Nevertheless, his “Canterbury Tales”¯ perfectly reveal the extent to which religion and Catholicism were significant for people. For instance, in his “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”¯, Geoffrey Chaucer shows that religion stimulated people to be obedient to the will of God and live a simple and even ascetic life. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the following lines:

Since thilke day that she was last a wife, that day

In patience led a full simple life,

For little was her chattel and her rent. property & income

By husbandry of such as God her sent by thrift

She found herself, and eke her daughters two. supported / & also

(Nun’s Priest’s Tale 4015-4019)

In such a way, it is obvious that the main character of the tale leads an ordinary, simple life that is apparently perceived as a virtue. At the same time, Chaucer shows that people did not really attempt to change their life. In stark contrast, one of the major characteristics of Catholics is humility since people should be perceived such as God sent them and they should be satisfied with such a life. Obviously, this implies that Catholicism did not appreciate vanity of people.

However, in his “Miller’s Tale”¯ Geoffrey Chaucer shows that Catholicism and religion at large did not always mean a virtuous life. In fact, in this tale, the author shows that people took religious for granted, as a routine part of their life to the extent that they accompany sinful actions with reference to saints and God. For instance, For instance, when the miller’s wife is on her way to deceive his husband, in her conversation with her lover, they refer to God and Saint Thomas of Kent:

And said: “Lemman, love me all at once sweetheart

Or I will die, all so God me save.”¯

And she sprang as a colt does in the trave in the shafts

And with her head she wrid fast away twisted

And said: “I will not kiss thee, by my fay. faith


This Nicholas gan mercy for to cry forgiveness

And spoke so fair, and proffered him so fast, pressed her

3290 That she her love him granted at the last.

And swore her oath by Saint Thomas of Kent

That she would be at his commandment

When that she may her leisure well espy.


(Miller’s Tale, 3280-3293)

In such a way, Geoffrey Chaucer shows that the religiosity of people was, to a significant extent, ostentatious and, in spite of Catholic norms and rules, humans remained humans and, therefore, vulnerable to sinful inclinations since the wife, according to Catholic norms, could not deceive her husband or vice versa.

Thus, in conclusion, it should be said that Geoffrey Chaucer managed to reveal the controversy of Catholicism and its impact on people at the epoch of the Middle Ages.

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