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Historical Background of the Canterbury Tales

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Bailey Brasington

on 11 October 2013

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Transcript of Historical Background of the Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
Born circa 1340 in London, England
Had many different jobs (public servant, Royal Service, esquire for King Edward III, poet...)
Encountered many walks of life
Helped him to accurately write about characters of varying social class and occupation
Pardoner, Wife of Bath, Knight, Miller, etc.
Corruption of Church in Middle Ages
Catholic church was all powerful, main ruling force
Priests were supposed to be well educated, but many were illiterate
Although they took vows of chastity, priests and nuns took part in sexual affairs
Pope Innocent VIII and Alexander VI had children
Although they were suppose to live a life of simplicity, many priests and monks lived lives of luxury
Cardinals in Rome enjoyed huge palaces encrusted in jewels
Wealthy families could buy their sons high positions in the church to attain salvation
Role of Women in The Canterbury Tales
Chaucer went against the traditional roles of women in 14th Century & showed more 2oth Century values
The Wife of Bath
Manipulates men
Finds way to support herself instead of relying on men
Wife of Bath's Tale
Knight chooses to let the hag choose between an ugly but loyal hag or a beautiful cheating, wife
Hag chooses to be beautiful and loyal because she got what all women want; power (something 14th Century women didn't have)
Miller's Tale
Alison cheats on the carpenter
The Canterbury Tales
Collection of stories written in Middle English, as opposed to French
Written by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th Century (during the Hundred Years War)
Stories within a story: the stories are "tales" told by the characters
Originally, each character would tell 4 stories, but Chaucer died before finishing

Role of Women in Middle Ages
14th Century
Housewives (essentially slaves)
Not allowed to go to school (uneducated)
Arranged marriages according to status
No divorces
Wives were beaten if they disobeyed husband
Women never cheated or disobeyed
Men allowed to cheat on and abuse wives
How the Church Took Money
The relationship between people and church was based around money
Made people pay to see holy relics
Selling indulgences
Indulgences are a grant from the Pope that forgives you for your sin
Largest income source
People expected to give donations at end of services
Official for the church
Sold indulgences, relics, and prayers
Con men
Most indulgences were forged and the pardoners kept all the money to themselves
Unlike monks, friars preached the message of the church to the public
Suppose to emphasize and represent poverty
Begged from the rich and became wealthy, contradicting what they were suppose to believe and practice

Supposed to be scholarly and support themselves in monasteries
Although they took vows of chastity, some engaged in sexual affairs
"Were Medieval Catholic Monasteries Corrupt?", CatholicBridge.com, http://www.catholicbridge.com/catholic/corrupt_monasteries.php
"Historical Background", http://csis.pace.edu/grendel/prjs3c/history.htm
Walker Jr., Max, "Corruption of the Church in the Middle Ages", Ezine articles, http://ezinearticles.com/?Corruption-of-the-Church-in-the-Middle-Ages&id=969734
"The Roman Catholic Church in 1500", History Learning Site, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/RomanCatholic-Church-in-1500.htm
"The Pardoner and the Problem of Evil: how Chaucer creates character.", http://www.stjohns-chs.org/english/Medieval/pdr.html
"Friars", The Church, http://europeanhistory.boisestate.edu/latemiddleages/churchstructure/09.shtml
"Duties", The Middle Ages, http://westernreservepublicmedia.org/middleages/feud_clergy.htm

"Geoffrey Chaucer Biography" http://www.biography.com/people/geoffrey-chaucer-9245691?page=3

"The Fourteenth Century" http://staff.gps.edu/mines/Age%20of%20Faith%20-%20Crises%20of%20the%2014th%20Century.htm

"Banned Books Awareness: The Canterbury Tales" http://bannedbooks.world.edu/2011/11/21/banned-books-awareness-canterbury-tales/

"Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales" http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item126565.html

"The Canterbury Tales" http://csis.pace.edu/grendel/prjs3e/INDEX.html

"Writings in the Middle English Period" http://www.uni-due.de/SHE/SHE_ME_Writings.htm

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