Major

English Literature

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Craig Callender

Keywords

Chaucer, wealth, greed, vanity, Canterbury Tales, class

Abstract

In this presentation, I will argue that in the “General Prologue” to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chaucer refers to silver and gold in three different ways in and analyze how these methods reflect on the travelers as well as reflect Chaucer’s own musings on morality and wealth: through description of their attire or looks, through reference to the literal exchange, and through metaphor. All three types of references allow for both negative, like the Pardoner and Miller, and positive, like the Parson, evaluations of the specific traveler’s character, and through this Chaucer reminds the reader that wealth is not inherently good or evil, but it is in how one uses it that is worthy of judgement. The inclusion of characters from the three estates of English society, allows class also comes into play with the way the commoners, clergy, and even the courtly elite regard wealth, and how we can analyze their greed or lack thereof. Ironically, it is in the members of the church, save for the Parson, that present this abuse of wealth most strongly. The Pardoner, in contrast, provides the most poignant evaluation of wealth and the church, through his acknowledgement of his failings, and can be seen as an interjection of Chaucer’s opinion in a serious, critical way. The significance of gold and silver do not change or challenge the common interpretations of the characters within the story, but rather support and lend more specificity to the theme of avarice and greed that we as readers see throughout the Prologue in the description of Chaucer’s travelers.

Chaucer Presentation Silver Gold.pptx (537 kB)
corresponding slides to research essay

Share

COinS
 

Silver and Gold: The Markers of Goodness, Greed and Vanity in Chaucer's Travelers

In this presentation, I will argue that in the “General Prologue” to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chaucer refers to silver and gold in three different ways in and analyze how these methods reflect on the travelers as well as reflect Chaucer’s own musings on morality and wealth: through description of their attire or looks, through reference to the literal exchange, and through metaphor. All three types of references allow for both negative, like the Pardoner and Miller, and positive, like the Parson, evaluations of the specific traveler’s character, and through this Chaucer reminds the reader that wealth is not inherently good or evil, but it is in how one uses it that is worthy of judgement. The inclusion of characters from the three estates of English society, allows class also comes into play with the way the commoners, clergy, and even the courtly elite regard wealth, and how we can analyze their greed or lack thereof. Ironically, it is in the members of the church, save for the Parson, that present this abuse of wealth most strongly. The Pardoner, in contrast, provides the most poignant evaluation of wealth and the church, through his acknowledgement of his failings, and can be seen as an interjection of Chaucer’s opinion in a serious, critical way. The significance of gold and silver do not change or challenge the common interpretations of the characters within the story, but rather support and lend more specificity to the theme of avarice and greed that we as readers see throughout the Prologue in the description of Chaucer’s travelers.