The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Everich, for the wisdom that he can,
Was shaply for to been an alderman.
For catel hadde they ynogh and rente.
(General Prologue 371 – 373)
This quote raises the age-old question: who should have power? Those who are qualified or those who are wealthy? Or are the rich wealthy because they are qualified? The guildsmen are not only good at what they do, they're crafty, having seen the financial advantage in joining a guild. Does that make them wise, and, thus, qualified to be aldermen, too?
He kepte that he wan in pestilence,
For gold in phisik is cordial;
Therfore he lovede gold in special.
(General Prologue 442 – 444)
A sly joke is occurring here based upon the fact that medieval physicians and apothecaries used finely ground gold in their most expensive medicines. Thus gold in medicine really was a cordial, or pleasure-giving concoction. But the implication here is that gold gives pleasure to the Physician because he's greedy.
A good man was ther of religioun,
And was a povre Persoun of a toun,
But riche he was of holy thought and werk.
(General Prologue 477 – 479)
As the only religious character fulfilling his vow of poverty, Chaucer implies that the Parson is actually the richest of them all. The idea is that God trades in a different currency – faith and holy deeds – with which the holy can buy their way into Heaven.