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The Friar - A Pilgrim from the Canterbury Tales
Transcript of The Friar - A Pilgrim from the Canterbury Tales
Friars are members of a catholic mendicant religious order. They take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
The Tone of the Passage
The Friar is criticized throughout the passage. The narrator's description of the Friar's flawed character opposes the ideal for a man of religion.
The Friar's Characteristics
A Sanguine Person
The Friar's extroverted personality suggests that he is a sanguine person. Therefore, he is in excess of blood.
Excitable “There was a Friar, a wanton one and merry” (206)
Sociable “a very festive fellow” (207)
Talkative “[He knew] every innkeeper and barmaid too” (239)
Lively. “For he sang well and played the hurdey-gurdy” (234)
Ideal friar = devout, chaste, lives with/helps the poor, engages in religious work.
an ideal friar
He sins regularly (avarice, lust) by indulging himself in selfish pleasures rather than on religious works.
The narrator describes the Friar in a mocking/satirical fashion. He regularly uses irony to emphasize his satirical tone. Example:
The narrator initially describes the Friar as "a noble pillar to his Order," (line 212) however, the sarcastic tone in the previous quote is emphasized when the narrator says that the Friar "kept his tippet stuffed with pins for curls / And pocket-knives, to give to pretty girls." (lines 231 - 232)
Chaucer does not think highly of this character. The friar should have been very poor, perhaps worse off than the people he helped, however, this friar was healthy and living large.
Friars live in poverty amongst the poor to help them obtain money (through begging) and to improve their livelihood. They believe that by doing so, they are living like Jesus Christ, devoting all their time to religious work.
The Friar is portrayed as a realistic, unideal friar. Rather than working to win support for the poor, this Friar is busy winning the hearts of barmaids.
How the Friar Compares to Other Pilgrims
The Friar's Sins
The Friar is an embodiment of lust and avarice:
• “giving each / Of his young women what he could afford her” (210 - 211)
• “beloved and intimate was he / … [With] city dames of honour and possessions” (213, 215)
• “He kept his tippet stuffed with pins for curls / And pocket knives to give to pretty girls” (231 - 232)
• “He knew the taverns well in every town / And every innkeeper and barmaid too.” (238 - 239)
His greed is evident through his immoral ways of obtaining more money for himself:
• “Sweetly he heard his penitents at shrift / With pleasant absolution, for a gift” (219 - 220)
• “He was an easy man in penance giving / Where he could hope to make a decent living” (221 - 222)
• “But anywhere a profit might accrue/ Courteous he was and lowly of service too.” (247 - 248)
• “To arbitrate disputes on settling days/ (For a small fee) in many helpful ways.” (259 - 260)
The Friar, like the Monk and the Prioress, is not a very pious man. However, the Friar’s actions are more reprehensible. His fraudulent ways of gaining wealth from the destitute (who trust him), make him inferior to the Monk and the Prioress.
The Friar might have joined the pilgrimage to repent for his many sins.
Modern Equivalent for the Friar
The Friar is a lustful person. His modern day equivalent would be Warren Jeffs, the leader/ prophet of the Mormon Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
He is currently in jail for the sexual assault of underage girls.
Warren Jeffs has approximately 60 kids from many wives. He had approximately 70 wives at one point, 24 of which were under the age 17.
We would expect the Friar to tell a religious, yet comedic tale about lust and/or fraud, because these are all descriptors for the Friar.
He an ideal character while the friar is very realistic.
He and the Friar both do duties in the name of god and yet they both take profits from where they are not supposed to.
The Friar and the Monk don't take their vows very seriously.
Directly contrasts the Friar. The parson is a devout churchman. He lives in poverty but is rich in holy thoughts and deeds.
The Friar’s greed can also be compared to the physicians love for financial gain.
His words contrast the Friar's actions. The Clerk's words are wise and full of moral virtue, while the friar’s actions are the exact opposite.
She, like the Friar, is not an ideal religious figure.
He is insincere because he would forgive anybody (despite their sin) only for a small gift; his forgiveness is not sincere.
His cheerfulness is demonstrated when the narrator says that “When he had played his harp, or having sung, / his eyes would twinkle in his head as bright as any star upon a frosty night.” (lines 270 - 271)
The friar has a pretense of having virtues, beliefs, and principles that he actually does not possess.
Demonstrated when the narrator says that “So pleasant was his holy how-d’ye-do” (line 254) and that “He lisped a little out of wantonness / to make his English sweet upon his tongue.” (268 -269
He is sly with his love interests; he would not remain with them. Instead, he’d fix up marriages for them (ironically) so that he could get rid of them and hide his lust as a man who is supposed to live in chastity.