The Canterbury Tales: the Poor Parson
The Poor Parson Portrait of a genuine parson – described in terms of his virtues: no physical appearance – spiritual man Active life: life of poverty, devoted to his flock and to the preaching of the gospel He travelled on foot, with a stave – not a symbol of his mission and authority but a real object to lean upon, a support He did what the gospels said and preached it. Put the gospel’s teachings into practice.
Many priests went to London to earn money by singing masses or getting in a Brotherhood (Guild): he didn’t go Relationship with the parishioners: he helped them when they were in need – he didn’t insist on payment; not severe or violent even towards sinners – he preferred them to repent. The priest wants to be understood: he doesn’t use Latin, in contrast to the Pardoner. Positive behaviour, honest, humble (n. humbleness), unworldly, not intellectual, but clever and charitable Holy and benign: recall the parson’s goodness and make him the ideal cleric.
Personification of the good shepherd who looks after his flock Mystic overtones: Good Priest = Jesus Christ – he appears like a saint Opposition between the Parson – Pardoner; Parson – Prioress (vanity) is capsized: the parson is exalted positively Main differences: poor, humble, not materialists, no pretensions, not appearance, but substance, difference in knowledge: the prioress knows French and singing, manners – representative of the contemporary clergy; pure, free form the faults of the regular clergy, cares for his flock and not for himself: interested in the treasure he has in heaven.
Rich in the soul: thought and work converge; this convergence didn’t exist in the medieval world – the wealth of his flock “That if gold rust, what then will iron do? “: motto from the gospel: I have to be an example, I shouldn’t rust Gold: eternal (it never rusts, corrupts, deteriorates) and precious “King” of metals Symbol of the sun (from ancient Egypt, Pre-Columbian civilisations) A means/ way to immortality from Alchemy (negative for the church) Symbol of pride
Gold=priests (clergy) – got nearer to god but they may rust, become spiritually corrupt; iron=common men Habits of the time are criticised: taking advantage from a high position – direct comment by Chaucer, to show his attitude and pass a moral judgement, to explain the metaphor. Connection with Wycliffe (priest, a learned person, guide) and Lollardy: Money for charitable purposes
Criticize the richness of the church: no temporal church Authority of the gospels Priest = teacher, example for the community Chaucer doesn’t use irony: realistic portrait “Light attitude” of Chaucer: tolerance, sense of humour (Merchant’s Tale, Doctor), deep love of human nature (Wife of Bath – puts in evidence the most positive aspects – vitality)