Does 'The Canterbury Tales' promote papal supremacy?

Discussion in 'The Commons' started by Religious Fanatic, Nov 13, 2018.

  1. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    Chaucer's classic work 'The Canterbury Tales' makes numerous references to the authority of the pope. As Canterbury is the See of Anglicanism, and since this was penned during the beginning of the Reformation era, can The Canterbury Tales' mentions of the pope be used to promote the idea that The Church of England accepted papal supremacy?
     
  2. Rev2104

    Rev2104 Active Member

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    The Church England did accept it tell they did not.
     
  3. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I take it that means that post the Norman Conquest. As Stigand was excommunicated, yet continue to serve as ArchBishop of Canterbury it would seem to suggest that there was a time when it was not so accepted.
     
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  4. Rev2104

    Rev2104 Active Member

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    Well Rome was kinda far away.....
     
  5. Scottish Knight

    Scottish Knight Well-Known Member

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    Wasn't the Canterbury tales published over 100 years before the Reformation?
     
  6. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Is there any mention of Lollardism or the like in the Canterbury Tales? I.e poor priests with no bishop's license?
     
  7. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I see it all as a complicated relationship between the See of Canterbury and the See of Rome... John Wycliffe gets excommunicated for rejecting Roman superstitions, but Stigand himself gets excommunicated and yet continues to serve as Archbishop... Henry VIII for a time was the defender of Romanism against Martin Luther, yet the Magna Carta makes explicit limits and rejections of Papal powers in England, on a legal and canonical level...

    That being said, we can summarize that in the early Middle Ages the papacy had little sway in England and especially over Canterbury (see Stigand, Magna Carta), but over time by the 14th and 15th century the Romanists slowly usurped more and more authority (see Wycliffe excommunicated, Henry VIII as the 'defender of the Roman faith')... Chaucer if anything represents this Romanizing tendency of the late middle ages

    Thus by the 16th century a Reformation was necessary to bring the two Sees into proper alignment, one of honor not supremacy... And Rome rejected a position of honor by excommunicating England altogether, so they lost even that
     
  8. Fidei Defensor

    Fidei Defensor Active Member

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    Actually, Geoffrey Chaucer depicts his cast of characters in complex ways. Most of the churchmen he has disdain for, particularly the Pardoner and Summoner especially. Only the Parson who is poor, “practices what he preaches,” and the Prioress (Nun) does Chaucer have good words for.

    In fact, Chaucer’s caricatures of religious persons so offended the Medieval Roman Church that he had to attach a Recantation of the Canterbury Tales on his Canterbury Tales.


    “Character List

    The Pilgrims


    The Narrator - The narrator makes it quite clear that he is also a character in his book. Although he is called Chaucer, we should be wary of accepting his words and opinions as Chaucer’s own. In the General Prologue, the narrator presents himself as a gregarious and naïve character. Later on, the Host accuses him of being silent and sullen. Because the narrator writes down his impressions of the pilgrims from memory, whom he does and does not like, and what he chooses and chooses not to remember about the characters, tells us as much about the narrator’s own prejudices as it does about the characters themselves.

    The Wife Of Bath - Bath is an English town on the Avon River, not the name of this woman’s husband. Though she is a seamstress by occupation, she seems to be a professional wife. She has been married five times and had many other affairs in her youth, making her well practiced in the art of love. She presents herself as someone who loves marriage and sex, but, from what we see of her, she also takes pleasure in rich attire, talking, and arguing. She is deaf in one ear and has a gap between her front teeth, which was considered attractive in Chaucer’s time. She has traveled on pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times and elsewhere in Europe as well.

    The Knight - The first pilgrim Chaucer describes in the General Prologue, and the teller of the first tale. The Knight represents the ideal of a medieval Christian man-at-arms. He has participated in no less than fifteen of the great crusades of his era. Brave, experienced, and prudent, the narrator greatly admires him.

    The Miller - Stout and brawny, the Miller has a wart on his nose and a big mouth, both literally and figuratively. He threatens the Host’s notion of propriety when he drunkenly insists on telling the second tale. Indeed, the Miller seems to enjoy overturning all conventions: he ruins the Host’s carefully planned storytelling order; he rips doors off hinges; and he tells a tale that is somewhat blasphemous, ridiculing religious clerks, scholarly clerks, carpenters, and women.

    The Prioress - Described as modest and quiet, this Prioress (a nun who is head of her convent) aspires to have exquisite taste. Her table manners are dainty, she knows French (though not the French of the court), she dresses well, and she is charitable and compassionate.

    The Monk - Most monks of the Middle Ages lived in monasteries according to the Rule of Saint Benedict, which demanded that they devote their lives to “work and prayer.” This Monk cares little for the Rule; his devotion is to hunting and eating. He is large, loud, and well clad in hunting boots and furs.

    The Friar - Roaming priests with no ties to a monastery, friars were a great object of criticism in Chaucer’s time. Always ready to befriend young women or rich men who might need his services, the friar actively administers the sacraments in his town, especially those of marriage and confession. However, Chaucer’s worldly Friar has taken to accepting bribes.

    The Summoner - The Summoner brings persons accused of violating Church law to ecclesiastical court. This Summoner is a lecherous man whose face is scarred by leprosy. He gets drunk frequently, is irritable, and is not particularly qualified for his position. He spouts the few words of Latin he knows in an attempt to sound educated.

    The Host - The leader of the group, the Host is large, loud, and merry, although he possesses a quick temper. He mediates among the pilgrims and facilitates the flow of the tales. His title of “host” may be a pun, suggesting both an innkeeper and the Eucharist, or Holy Host.

    The Parson - The only devout churchman in the company, the Parson lives in poverty, but is rich in holy thoughts and deeds. The pastor of a sizable town, he preaches the Gospel and makes sure to practice what he preaches. He is everything that the Monk, the Friar, and the Pardoner are not.

    The Squire - The Knight’s son and apprentice. The Squire is curly-haired, youthfully handsome, and loves dancing and courting.

    The Clerk - The Clerk is a poor student of philosophy. Having spent his money on books and learning rather than on fine clothes, he is threadbare and wan. He speaks little, but when he does, his words are wise and full of moral virtue.

    The Man Of Law - A successful lawyer commissioned by the king. He upholds justice in matters large and small and knows every statute of England’s law by heart.

    The Manciple - A manciple was in charge of getting provisions for a college or court. Despite his lack of education, this Manciple is smarter than the thirty lawyers he feeds.

    The Merchant - The Merchant trades in furs and other cloths, mostly from Flanders. He is part of a powerful and wealthy class in Chaucer’s society.


    The Shipman - Brown-skinned from years of sailing, the Shipman has seen every bay and river in England, and exotic ports in Spain and Carthage as well. He is a bit of a rascal, known for stealing wine while the ship’s captain sleeps.

    The Physician - The Physician is one of the best in his profession, for he knows the cause of every malady and can cure most of them. Though the Physician keeps himself in perfect physical health, the narrator calls into question the Physician’s spiritual health: he rarely consults the Bible and has an unhealthy love of financial gain.

    The Franklin - The word “franklin” means “free man.” In Chaucer’s society, a franklin was neither a vassal serving a lord nor a member of the nobility. This particular franklin is a connoisseur of food and wine, so much so that his table remains laid and ready for food all day.

    The Reeve - A reeve was similar to a steward of a manor, and this reeve performs his job shrewdly—his lord never loses so much as a ram to the other employees, and the vassals under his command are kept in line. However, he steals from his master.

    The Plowman - The Plowman is the Parson’s brother and is equally good-hearted. A member of the peasant class, he pays his tithes to the Church and leads a good Christian life.

    The Guildsmen - Listed together, the five Guildsmen appear as a unit. English guilds were a combination of labor unions and social fraternities: craftsmen of similar occupations joined together to increase their bargaining power and live communally. All five Guildsmen are clad in the livery of their brotherhood.
    The Cook - The Cook works for the Guildsmen. Chaucer gives little detail about him, although he mentions a crusty sore on the Cook’s leg.

    The Yeoman - The servant who accompanies the Knight and the Squire. The narrator mentions that his dress and weapons suggest he may be a forester.

    The Second Nun - The Second Nun is not described in the General Prologue, but she tells a saint’s life for her tale.
    The Nun’s Priest - Like the Second Nun, the

    Nun’s Priest is not described in the General Prologue. His story of Chanticleer, however, is well crafted and suggests that he is a witty, self-effacing preacher.” (Sparknotes.com)
     
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  9. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    We know that prior to the Reformation the Church of England had had an ambivalent relationship with the Bishop of Rome... During the ministry of John Wycliffe, the Oxford clergy sought to destroy him under the command of the Pope, but on the other hand medieval English documents explicitly limit the power of the pope, and deny him universal jurisdiction

    What it seems to me is, the Church of England wasn't under the command and control of the Pope as other European churches (of Spain, or France) were, but rather, it was an independent church (not unlike the Eastern churches), but which at some times had accepted the Pope's leadership and at other times rejected it
     
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  10. Fidei Defensor

    Fidei Defensor Active Member

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    That is true, the Archbishop of Canterbury lead the Church of England almost as a autocephalous church. Hence why Henry II of Englsnd wanted to install Thomas Beckett as Archbishop so that he could control the church via his friend and complete the secular reforms: making priests and clergyman subject to sscular law rather than ecclesiastical law and courts. Henry II’s dream would not be achieved until Henry VIII’s decision to break with the RCC and become the Supersms Head of the Church of England; granted Henrie II probably would never have dreamed of the rather Byzantine Emperor ability to rule as both King and Head of the Church.