The Friar Quotes in The Canterbury Tales

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

In Geoffrey Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales', the friar is a repulsive character who abuses his religious post. His description is completely ironic to highlight his true nature. In this lesson, we will look at the friar through several quotes.

Background

If there's one thing Chaucer does well in The Canterbury Tales, it's his ability to turn noble folks in society into downright dirty heathens. Chaucer describes the Friar as a religious figure who doesn't fulfill his oath to the church to help others and live a life in poverty; quite the opposite, in fact. The narrator provides a description about the Friar that'll make you question the inner workings of organized religion. Chaucer uses an ironic depiction of the Friar to highlight church corruption. In this lesson, we will explore several quotes about the Friar to see how he contributes to these ideas.

Watch Your Wives

In Chaucer's time a religious stereotype existed about friars who would use their position to hear confessions in order to seduce women into having affairs with them. Of course, this is just a stereotype, and most friars used their powers to absolve sins in the name of the church. But in The Canterbury Tales, the Friar embodies this stereotype. The Friar abuses his power to hear confession by trading his services for intimate encounters with hopeless women.

In the General Prologue, the narrator reveals this to the reader by saying, 'And wel biloved and famulier was he/ With frankeleyns overal in his contree,/ And eek with worthy wommen of the toun;' The translation of this phrase is that the Friar intimately knows the Franklins in the area and the women too. He is described as beloved by all, but this is written sarcastically to demonstrate that the attention the Friar receives isn't genuine. Chaucer uses irony to subtly tell us that the Friar disobeys his vows to remain abstinent and commit himself to God by manipulating women to sleep with him.

A Friendly Ear Is Given…For A Price

The Friar also uses confessions for monetary gain. He appears to be kind, giving followers forgiveness as he listens to confessions, but he only does this for a price. Instead of living a life of poverty as he is supposed to according to the church's rules, the Friar takes handsome donations. The narrator paints an ironic and hilarious depiction of the Friar's life by saying, 'He may nat wepe, al thogh hym soore smerte;/ Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyeres/ Men moote yeve silver to the povre freres./ His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves…'

The poor Friar's pockets are lined with silver! Not to mention, he recommends to sinners that they spare him their tears and prayers in exchange for valuable items in order to absolve them of their sins. People are literally buying their way out of sin because of the Friar's greed.

For a man who is supposed to live a humble life, he surely doesn't abide by these rules. The narrator further demonstrates the irony of the Friar's character by telling us that 'His purchas was wel bettre than his rente,' which meant he had more money than his expenses,' which means he has more wealth than is needed to pay his dues.

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