Madame Englentyne In 'The Canterbury Tales'

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Emma Kratz Mr. McLaughlin AP Literature March 30, 2015 [Insert Title Here] Geoffrey Chaucer's The Prioress' Tale demonstrates how a dishonest Prioress, Madame Englentyne, portrays herself and her Christian Brethren as faultless, meek servants of God against the backdrop of anti-Semitism in the 14th century. The Prioress perceives herself like a child, humble and innocent, and holy in all things related to Christianity. In the general introduction at the beginning of The Canterbury Tales the narrator notices her attempts to be dainty and courtly. From her incorrect French speaking, singing through her nose, her ability to eat so carefully she never misses her mouth, and her ornate jewelry, she portrays herself as the opposite of how…show more content…
Instead she has a fixation on outward appearances with vanity being a main concern. It's expected she take an oath of poverty, which her taste in appearances don't mirror. Her facade tells a lot about her, and the "coral trinket on her arm/a set of beads, the gaudies tricked in green/a golden brooch of brightest sheen" shows her admiration for jewelry that is valued more as an ornament than a religious relic. This is even mirrored in her story when she says "the gem of chastity, this emerald/this jewel of martyrdom, and ruby bright" where she finds a way to mention her own material items amidst a murder. She even shows her forehead, which was "fair of spread" the way typical middle age era royalty would, instead of tightly wearing her wimple over to her eyebrows. It's rather clear that Madame Englentyne would rather live a life of riches and wealth than the simple, meager one of a nun. But it's not only her exterior that shows how she is the antithesis of a true nun; it's her lack of piety and nun like aspirations. She repeatedly contradicts herself, on one hand she has charity and love for innocent creatures, like children and animals, but on the other she casts off and kills the Jews in her stories. She offers no mercy or forgiveness to the group of apparent wrongdoers. Her affectionate nature towards animals opposes her vindictive actions towards…show more content…
In her comparing herself to a child and reverence for the young boy, combine to show that her appearance of shallowness and immaturity is in reality her true nature. Throughout The Prioress’ Tale stark contrasts between Christians and Jews define the main character and the antagonists. Madame Englentyne refers to the Jews as “foes” and “cursed folk” exemplifying the anti-Semitic nature of England in the 14th century. As Englentyne describes the setting of the town, she makes it clear that the Jews are “hateful to Christ and all his company,” yet are rich making the “good breeding” Christians look holier in comparison. The story shows the power of the meek and the poor who trust in Christ, as demonstrated by the young boy singing a hymn after his

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