Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Scribe 11/06/06

I apologize for the inexcusable tardiness of this post; it just slipped my mind.

On Monday we continued discussing the Prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The pages covered were 111-116. Here are summaries of the characters in these pages:
The Monk: He ignores the rules of how monks should act. Instead of staying in the monastery and copying books he goes and hunts. The narrator points out that the Monk owns multiple "dainty" horses (i.e., thoroughbreds) and greyhounds, and also wears fine fur with a golden pin. These possessions indicate wealth, yet a true monk should be dirt poor. This indicates the Monk is probably embezzling money from the church. Also, the Monk is a hunter, even though church law says "hunters are not holy men" (line 182). The Monk is representative of the corrupted power of the church during Chaucer's time.
The Friar: Another character who shows the church's corruption. The Friar listens to people's confessions, and offers forgiveness, as long as they pay a fee (lines 225-226). He is a womanizer (or more likely, a creepy pedophile) who gives gifts of "pins for curls/And pretty girls" (lines 237-238). The narrator says the Friar spends more time hanging around bars and inns than helping the needy. He believes "nothing good can come/Of commerce with such slum-and-gutter dwellers,/But only with the rich and victual-sellers" (lines 250-252).
The Merchant: Gives a false appearance of being rich and well-off. In reality, the Merchant is flooded in debt. Chaucer says openly, "high on his horse he sat," indicating his attempt to give off an aura of pride and haughtiness (line 281). It's ironic that Chaucer placed the Monk and Merchant close to each other in the Prologue. We would expect the Monk to be poor and the Merchant to be rich, but the situation is the exact opposite.
The Oxford Cleric: He is a student. He pours all his money and energy into buying books and learning. He borrows money from his friends in order to buy books (keep in mind that books in this era were hand-copied, and therefore expensive). Despite all his knowledge, he keeps his mouth shut most of the time, never speaking "a word more than was need...Short, to the point, and lofty in his theme" (lines 314 & 316). As Smith would say, the Cleric is a bonafide, Grade-AA nerd.
The Serjeant (Sargeant): He is a master of the law. He serves as a justice in court, and delivers his verdict in black and white--there is no gray area for the Sargeant. The narrator says he "knew every judgement, case, and crime/Ever recorded since King William's time" (lines 333-334). The only "King William" I can think of is William the Conqueror, who we read about for background info. If this line is indeed referring to Willy the Conqueror, then the Sargeant knows about 300 years worth of court decisions--quite a feat. However, the narrator also says the Sargeant is "less busy than he seemed to be" (line 332). This continues a motif of deception and false appearances that Chaucer has carried through almost every character mentioned so far.
Once we finished our discussion on Canterbury Tales, we split into groups to work on our locker tag assignments. Each group picked a character from the Prologue to create a locker tag for. The locker tag is supposed to indicate the social status and abilities of the character, and also identify a vice (negative quality) that the character is trying to overcome. The tag should urge that character to defeat their vice (e.g., "Hey Friar! Stop mackin' on those young girls!"). Put some thought into your character's qualities. Make the tag colorful and creative. Be sure to urge your character with something better than the example I gave.


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