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The Parson in The Canterbury Tales: Description & Character Analysis

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

The Parson is one of the few religious characters within ''The Canterbury Tales'' that actually appear to be faithful and true to his profession and calling. In this lesson, we'll discuss his character and the sermon he makes to his fellow travelers.

Characters in 'The Canterbury Tales'

The 29 pilgrims that tell the tales that make up The Canterbury Tales are an eclectic bunch of characters. There are the lower-class workers, like the Plowman (the Parson's brother and traveling companion); the religious but crooked, like the Monk and the Friar; and of course the fighters for good, such as the Knight. But the Parson is seen to stand apart from all that. As a person who faithful, and completely as he seems, the elderly Parson holds a unique position in the group as the only religious figure that is pious and humble.

The Only Faithful

A parson during the days of 'The Canterbury Tales' was a priest of an independent church, not tied to the Catholic Church of the day. Due to the fact that the parson is not obligated to a higher church, he is has more freedom to be in control of his own actions. A parson has full control of the direction and belief structure of his church.

This one is no different: He is seen by the Host as a shining example of a religious figure. The Parson lives the life he wants his church congregation to live, without fail. He is known to visit his people even when he is not well, and works hard, and does not brag about his work or his church. Additionally, during this time frame, parsons were not required to stay near their church, they could be absent. However, the Parson did not believe this was his role. Instead he felt responsible in leading his people so that they could go to heaven. He saw himself as a caretaker and took his role seriously.

Although the Parson could use his role to steal from his people, instead he is poor, and lives a quiet life, meant mostly as an example to others. He appreciates the small things and needs nothing extravagant to bring him happiness.

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