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The Canterbury Tales- The Summoner

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Emily Dishart

on 15 October 2013

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Transcript of The Canterbury Tales- The Summoner

The Canterbury Tales- The Summoner
Who Is The Summoner?
Historical Role:
A summoner was a man who would deliver summons or orders to people to appear in the ecclesiastical (church/clergy related) courts
He also had to collect fines for people's immoral or sinful behavior
He is often presented as a criminal, collecting and keeping fines from innocent people

The Friar's Tale:
According to the Friar's Tale, the Summoner is cheap thief who dedicates his life to scamming innocent old women into giving him their money
The fact that in the end of the story the Summoner is sent to hell proves that the Friar and the Summoner are not on good terms, as also shown in the Summoner's Tale
Through the Friar’s Tale Chaucer demonstrates the Summoner as a thief, extortionist, and someone who prosecutes women unfairly.

It is obvious from Chaucer's tales about the Summoner that he did not like this character.
Chaucer paints a very ugly image of the Summoner's appearance, instantly making the reader grossed out by him. Not only that, but his descriptions of the character's actions show that he didn't believe the Summoner had any morals.
Chaucer's description of the summoner makes him seem like a disgusting man and tells us that he also was not well liked by anybody in medieval society
Chaucer speaks of the Summoner abusing his position as well as taking bribes and bullying those who wouldn't bribe him. Chaucer does not attribute any good features to the Summoner.

The Summoner's Tale
The Summoner's tale is in fact not about the Summoner himself. This tale is a brief story where the Summoner is telling about a Friar who goes around asking for alms (money for the poor) and promising to use the money towards building a new church, and in return he promises to pray for the people who donate. Not only does he not pray for them, but he keeps the money for himself. He then visits his friends Thomas’ house, who is very ill, to ask for a donation. The Friar then suggests that an extravagant dinner be made and begins to tell tales of fasting and the benefits it has. The Friar tells Thomas that he should not have given alms to other Friars, but should have given them all to him because his prayer, if given many alms, is more concentrated and stronger than 12 other friars. He also speaks of Thomas’s wife, and her anger after losing their son, and tells a few stories of how anger is a sin. The Friar then makes a case for Thomas to donate money to the church. After a while Thomas agrees to give the Friar the last of his money, and he instructs him to reach into his pocket and take it. The Friar reaches under Thomas and receives a thunderous fart. He is appalled and runs out. He then has dinner at the house of the Lord, and they work out a way that the fart could be divided out between 12 Friars, because it would only be fair. The story ends with them deciding that they could divide the fart by having each Friar stand at the end of a cartwheel as the man farts.
The Summoner's Tale does not indicate much about the Summoner itself, besides that he is angry and hungry for revenge, but it does demonstrate the Summoner's deep hatred for Friars.
The tale and prologue demonstrate the unreliability of "loyal" citizens during the medieval times
A main point of this Tale is that the church is full or corruption, and that personal investigation is necessary when donating to a cause
Chaucer and the Summoner
The physical description of the Summoner is not a pleasant sight
He has sores all over his face, including many grotesque pimples
He is known for his bad breath and bushy eyebrows, and it is said that he is so unattractive that he scares children
The attitudes/values that Chaucer gives to the Summoner is that he is dishonest and lecherous
The summoner takes bribes, is ignorant and is a drunk. His gross moral nature is reflected by his vulgar outer appearance.
He tries to sound intelligent by using the little Latin he knows frequently
The Prologue
In Chaucer's prologue he introduces the Summoner in a fit of rage against the friar. He then tells a tale of the Friar traveling through heaven with an angel, without seeing any friars. When the Friar asks where all the friars are, she responds by taking him to hell and asking Satan to lift up his tale. Inside Satan's backside there was twenty-thousand Friars roaming.
The summoner has now insulted all friars in general, and continues on to tell an insulting tale focusing on one Friar.
Through this prologue, Chaucer is demonstrating how the Summoner is easily agitated and how he makes and attack on the Friar on a personal level
Again the theme of corruption of the church is brought up
Cat and Em
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