Fig. 1

The Monk Edit

Background Edit

In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the Monk is a complex character worthy of notation. Christian monks are still around today, specifically in Great Britain (which currently has 600 registered Christian Monks), but having a monk in the story helps us understand that the story is set in medieval times, where monks spent all day, every day in the monastery, dedicating their life to religion. On the religious hierarchy, Monks were just below Priests and above Clerks. Most monks were usually well respected, yet stereotyped as overweight, lazy, and socially pretentious, but the monk portrayed by Chaucer is very different. This character seems to be somewhat of an outcast from his Monastery, for he likes to do things contrary to a regular monks lifestyle. During this time, a monk completely devoted to his religious duties would be reading, writing, meditating, and praying nearly every hour, daily. They would give service when the occasion presents itself, but it may not always be in such a humble fashion. Although, the specific monk in Grady Gibson enjoys more 'manly' activities, which are considered unholy by the monastery. The activity listed in the book itself is hunting with his greyhounds on horseback, of which he prizes more than anything. Chaucer does not include anymore detail about the monk that pertain to his personal life, yet he hints at the fact that he has seen a lot of people rise and fall, or in other words, he is old with much experience. Although, Chaucer does seem to draw the monk up as a somewhat rebellious individual, who does not like rules and governs his own life. He likes having the title of a monk, but does not enjoy doing those things a monk usually would.

Examination of Text Edit

There are 50 lines the prologue of the text that describe his physical appearance to the reader. Basically, it says that he is a man’s man, who likes hunting and horses. He has fine clothing and jewelry, and on line 34 of 43, it says 'his head was bald and shone like any glass.' His body is white and fat, so you can imagine his eyes being quite bulgy, (see Fig. 1). As for his personality, Chaucer delivers in an almost mockingly way. Lines 10-14 and 24-28 state that he is quite the rebellious and 'out of character' individual. Specifically lines 13-14 say: 'He cared not for that text a clean-plucked hen, Which holds that hunters are not holy men.’ The monk was considered unholy because he hunted, and the fact that he sincerely didn't care showed us his ignorant attitude and pungent personality. To clarify, if reading the Old English version/text rather than the Modern English, there will be multiple spelling variations that will most likely not be familiar. Some of these spelling variations include: ‘outridere’ (outrider), ‘streit’ (strict), ‘fowel’ (foul), ‘cleere’ (clear), and ‘thynges’ (things). The recommendation is to find a Modern version, as to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding from the text.

Analysis of Passage Edit

We can't ask Geoffrey Chaucer what his opinion is towards the monk, but it isn't very hard to understand if the Monk's prologue is read. Even the story which the Monk eventually tells reveals more about the way Chaucer feels towards the character. The author does not approve of the Monk. He thinks that this character is more concerned with the physicality of life over religion at the monastery. Chaucer believes that the Monk lives a more lavished life then a regular monk should. We can see this from analyzing the text, like line 8, where it says the monk is in a 'celle' (cell) at the monastery. Another, line 13, that says 'he cared not for that text,' meaning he doesn't show any value towards the monastery life-style. Also, the 27th line tells us that hunting is of utmost importance in his life, in which 'for no cost would he spare.' There are a few words that would require a more-than basic understanding of the vocabulary from that time period. A couple of these words found in the prologue for the Monk include swink, prelate, venery, palfrey, purfled, and austin.

Work Cited

"CHARACTER ANALYSIS." Character Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2014. <>.

"Chaucer's opinion of The Monk." The Monk of Canterbury. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <>.

"Daily Life of a Monk in the Middle Ages." Daily Life of a Monk in the Middle Ages. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <>.

"Middle Ages, Monks and Monasticism." Middle Ages, Monks and Monasticism. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <>.

"Monks in Modern Britain." BBC News. BBC, 25 May 2005. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <>.

"Monks in the Middle Ages." The Finer Times: War, Crime and History Resource. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <>.

"Social Class in Medieval England." Social Class in Medieval England. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 1929. <>.

"Sorry !." From "The Canterbury Tales": General Prologue (modern english and middle english). N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <>.

"The Prologue, Modern - Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400)." The Prologue, Modern - Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400). N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <>.

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