The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
Society and Class Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
[The Prioress] peyned hire to countrefete chere
Of court, and to ben estatlich of manere,
And to ben holden digne of reverence.
(General Prologue 139 – 141)
Wanting to appear noble, the Prioress makes herself appear ridiculous. The Prioress's belief that one must be noble to be worthy of reverence provides an interesting window into her character and her failing as a religious figure.
It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce
For to delen with no swich poraille,
But al with riche and selleres of vitaille.
(General Prologue 246 – 248)
The friar, who has taken a vow of poverty, is supposed to live a humble life tending to the poor and sick. But his pride and his desire for creature comforts cause him to gravitate toward the wealthy. This is a common failing of most of the religious figures Chaucer describes.
Everich, for the wisdom that he can,
Was shapely for to been an alderman.
For catel hadde they ynogh and rente.
(General Prologue 371 – 373)
There's an interesting irony in this quote: Chaucer starts out by claiming that, to be an "alderman," or powerful leader of the town, wisdom is necessary. But he ends by justifying the craftsmen's ascent to this position because of their wealth.