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Christianity and The Canterbury Tales in Medieval England

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Presentation on theme: "Christianity and The Canterbury Tales in Medieval England"— Presentation transcript:

1 Christianity and The Canterbury Tales in Medieval England
Sr. Amelia Breton & Ms. Michele L. Hanna

2 British Events of the Early Medieval Period
1066: Saxons defeated at Hastings by Normans 1073: Canterbury becomes England’s religious center 1170: Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is murdered by King Henry II’s men 1386: Chaucer begins writing The Canterbury Tales

3 Political Atmosphere in Medieval England
Introduction of the French political and economic system of feudalism as a result of the Norman invasion King - center of government Lords/Overlords – landowners that owed military service to the King Barons/Vassals – sublet land from Lords Knights – given smaller manors by barons in exchange for military service Commoners or serfs - the lowest class of Medieval society provided the physical labor for the land in exchange for food and protection Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales incorporates all main levels of Medieval society – the Church, the Court, and the common people

4 Social Atmosphere in Medieval England
Chivalry – code of knightly behavior Three ideals: God King Lady A period of cultural refinement through the discovery of luxuries from exotic lands The founding of Oxford and Cambridge gave rise to a broadening of intellectual horizons Life is centered around the castle

5 Religious Atmosphere in Medieval England
During middle ages the church was the main focus of community life. The Parish Priest was assigned by the manor and was obliged to keep up the church and provide hospitality to travelers. The priest was a commoner by birth. Serfs were not allowed to become priests because they were tied to the land.

6 Parish Income The priest earned his living from the income for parish lands, fees for services, and the tithe money. Tithing was obligatory and it was divided between the priest, the church maintenance, the poor, and the bishop. Peasants had little money so they paid with what they produced; seeds, grain, etc.

7 The Church’s Wealth The church had great control over the people. The peasants worked for free on the church land. What the church collected was kept in tithe barns where a lot of the stored grain would be eaten by rats. If the peasants failed to tithe they were told by the church that their souls would go to Hell.

8 Church’s Wealth Continued
People had to pay for baptisms, marriages and burials. This is one of the reasons why the church was so wealthy. This picture now a museum, was a tithe barn in Kent.

9 Monks’ Faults and Contributions
In the 12th and 13th centuries there were many monasteries where monks or nuns lived a simple life of prayer and work. They were criticized for their laxity and involvement in worldly affairs. Monks printed and preserved many books. They kept ancient literature sometimes at a great cost to themselves.

10 1170: Murder of Thomas a Becket
1073: Canterbury Cathedral becomes England’s religious center Henry II appointed his friend Thomas a Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury Henry appointed Becket hoping that he would overlook some of the King’s abuses of power When Becket did not go along with the King, some of Henry’s more zealous knights murdered Becket in the cathedral at Canterbury In order to atone for Becket’s murder, Henry made a pilgrimage, a holy journey, to Becket’s tomb at Canterbury Thereafter, a pilgrimage to Becket’s shrine at Canterbury became a common English means of showing religious devotion Geoffrey Chaucer, in The Canterbury Tales, uses the vehicle of the pilgrimage to bring together people from the 3 main segments of Medieval society

11 Geoffrey Chaucer 1343? In his own lifetime he was considered the greatest poet, and he is currently considered, by many, second only to Shakespeare in achievements He began as a page for one of King Edward III’s households, served in the army and held key government positions throughout his lifetime He married a lady-in-waiting to the Queen He began to write in his twenties and continued to do so for the rest of his life He was the first person to be buried in what is now the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey

12 The Canterbury Tales: Facts
Written in Middle English verse It is a frame story – a story that includes, or frames, another story or stories Chaucer’s frame is the pilgrimage, which he originally planned as a round trip but remains incomplete Within this frame are 24 individual stories the pilgrims tell It is a series of verse stories told by different pilgrims, from many walks of life, on their pilgrimage to St. Thomas a Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral It is the most accurate depiction of the life and values of people in Medieval 14th Century England

13 Satire in The Canterbury Tales
Satire – writing that shows the folly or evil of something through the use of wit and humor; a literary device employed to ridicule public or private abuses Chaucer uses satire to ridicule the corruptness of the Church in England in the Medieval Period

14 The 5 Main Religious Characters in The Canterbury Tales
Prioress - the nun ranking just below the abbess in an abbey During the Medieval Period, this position was usually bought by women of the nobility Monk – religious men that secluded themselves from society to perform religious and intellectual duties Friar – a part of the clergy that used to beg for the poor Most friars were corrupt and surrounded by scandal in the Middle Ages Pardoner – one who sells papal pardons which were believed to take some time off of one’s stay in Purgatory There was an epidemic of illegitimate pardoners Parson – a priest in a rural village Considered the bottom of the social ladder

15 The Prioress She is the first character to be gently satirized because she does things that nuns are not supposed to do At the time, nuns were not supposed to go on pilgrimages She dresses fashionably and nuns are supposed to dress conservatively “Her veil was gathered in a seemly way” Her mannerisms (the way she speaks, eats, etc) are characteristic of the noble class She had “a courtly kind of grace” Overall, she is gently satirized because she is rebellious in matters of discipline and not moral matters

16 The Monk He is also gently satirized because he is neglectful of discipline but not of moral matters He considers the rules for monks old-fashioned and out-dated He “took the modern world’s more spacious way” and “the Rule … he tended to ignore” He is a hunter, however, monks are not allowed to hunt “hunters are not holy men” He is on a pilgrimage but monks were supposed remain in seclusion at their monastery He didn’t believe that “a monk uncloistered is a mere Fish out of water” He dresses elaborately but monks were supposed to dress the same, in minimalist clothing “his sleeves were garnished at the hand With fine gray fur, the finest in the land”

17 The Friar Strongly satirized because he is corrupt and goes against morality He only hears the confessions of the rich so he can charge them and also use their confessions as grounds for future blackmail By only dealing “with the rich” a “profit might occur” He engages in behavior unfit of a Friar “He knew the taverns well in every town” He keeps, for himself, most of the money he collects for the poor He makes a “decent living”

18 The Pardoner Also strongly satirized for despicable behavior
He is an illegitimate pardoner who gets rich by selling fake religious relics and pardons to those wanting to atone for their sins “His wallet lay before him on his lap, Brimful of pardons come from Rome all hot” Even Chaucer’s physical description of him is harsh “In driblets fell his locks … like rat-tails” He even sells fake relics to “poor up-country parsons” who are fellow clergymen

19 The Parson He is a true shepherd of the people in his poor rural community He is considered to be at the bottom of the religious ladder, however he is at the pinnacle of the spiritual ladder He was poor but “rich in holy thought and work” He, unlike the other religious figures in lofty positions, believes in all his teachings and follows them He “truly knew Christ’s gospel and would preach it … but followed it himself before” He is poor because he gives all of his money and goods to his people, instead of becoming rich off of them

20 Works Cited Babusci, Roger, ed., et al. Prentice Hall Literature: The English Tradition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1989. Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Canterbury Tales.” Prentice Hall Literature: The English Tradition. Ed. Roger Babusci, et al. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1989. Other pictures were sent via from Miss Parmigiani. Some material was obtained from notes taken in Dr. Patricia Michaels British Literature I class.

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