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About The Canterbury Tales:|
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
About The Parson's Prologue and Tale:
The prologue to The Parson's Tale suggests that Chaucer intended The Parson's Tale to be the final tale of The Canterbury Tales. The Parson's Tale is written in prose. It is not a story, but only a straightforward treatise on penance, penitence and the seven deadly sins described in Christian theology. The parson divides penitence into three parts: 1. contrition of the heart, 2. confession of the mouth, and 3. contentment. The second part about confession is illustrated by an exhaustive treatise of the seven deadly sins in all their kinds and offering remedies against them. The seven deadly sins are pride, envy, wrath (anger), sloth (laziness), greed, gluttony, and lust. According to Christian theology, they are healed by the virtues of humility, contentment, patience, fortitude, mercy, moderation and charity, and chastity.
As The Parson's Tale is not much more than a lengthy and tedious churchly prose sermon, its literary value is very modest. The Parson preaches with all the force that the medieval pulpit afforded him and he ends with the compelling but predictable and tedious image of the purpose of man's pilgrimage, which is heaven and immortality. The intent of the sermon was didactic, in this case to teach a lesson or give instructions on achieving immortality. No fun intended by Chaucer and nothing funny to be found in The Parson's Tale, but to medieval people didactic intent is infinitely more important than literary achievement. And fun is potentially devilish. Was The Parson's Tale intended to offer some compensation for the ribaldry and fun offered in some of the previous tales? Is it Chaucer showing off with his churchly knowledge? We don't know for certain, but it seems that Chaucer wanted to end The Canterbury Tales with a morally and politically correct sermon. After all, what is last said, is probably best remembered.
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