Essay on the Canterbury Tales (the Prioress, Madame Eglentyne)
Number of words: 662
Prioress refers to a nun who heads a convent. A prioress holds a position immediately below the abbes. As a prioress Madam Eglentyne was required to follow many vows, wear given clothing, and engage in various religious tasks. The vows of nuns include poverty as it helps them to imitate Jesus Christ who becomes poor for our sake even though he was rich. The poverty life helps the nun to the nun to become poor in spirit and life a life of moderation and labor. The vow also helps the nun to live interdependently within the community as they give up on the right to benefit from personal property. The send vow is chastity as it also helps the nuns to imitate Jesus since he was chaste. The nuns should therefore be free from exclusive human relationship demands and give all her love to all people through God. They should not engage in any romantic behavior or sexual act. The third vow is obedience which helps them to imitate the obedience of Jesus Christ. Nun should seek God’s will and obey her lawful seniors based on her particular group’s constitution. She should also search for God’s will through prayerful reflection with others.
“She wore a rosary around her wrist made of out of coral beads all colored green.” This description idealizes prioress since she remained faithful to the church doctrine by wearing the rosary. This shows that she was frequently seeking God’s will through frequent reciting of prayers. By using the words “simple and coy” Chaucer flatters the nurse on one hand while discrediting her on the other. As a nun Eglentyne needed to be simple, however, she was supposed to act as a leader in charge of the convent which was never portrayed in the prologue.
Since nuns should remain faithful to the three vows, it was quite ironical for the prioress to make an oath to Eligious the patron saint of goldsmiths. Nuns should not wear expensive jewelry nor prioritize individual properties. Eglentyne was therefore portrayed as a flawed character since she broke the vows. Based on the prologue the prioress behavior is unseemly since most of what she does are contrary to the expectations. Moreover, by following church doctrines in (139-140), Eglentyne represented religious people, she remained faithful to the vows.
Prioress showed great compassion and charity to pets which were mostly prohibited since they symbolized the wealthy. She would serve the dogs roasted meat and show many emotions towards them. However, Chaucer does not make references to poor people who the nurse should show her great compassion and charity she is giving to pets especially dogs. The nun also fed her dogs with roasted meat or milk and fine white bread as she referred to them as poor and hungry. She, therefore, had a distorted understanding which was to live among the poor people and help them whenever possible. Prioress also wore a golden sheen; this connects her to the monk since it resembled the rich. The jewelry suggests that she had a romantic relationship with the monk since he also had a gold pin and love not the greater end of the glass.
Based on the above character, prioress is a religious character worth laughing at due to the following reasons. First, she lived a pretense life as she counterfeited her class to dine with the rich. Secondly, she had no concerns for the poor people as she only focused on her individual properties. Thirdly she resembled the secular people based on the majority of her behaviors. The irony that best captures Eglentyne prologue is situational since the nun does the opposite of what is expected of her. It is funny to see the nun feeding the dogs roasted meat while she cannot extend the charity to the poor (Chaucer 145-150).
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The canterbury tales. Broadview Press, 2012