The Friar is one of the many religious figures in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ that is more crook than clergy. However, the Friar is still thought of fondly because he’s very merry and entertaining.
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is the story of 29 people and the host/narrator that meet at the Tabard Inn on their way to see the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket. They decide to travel together to Canterbury and tell tales along the way to entertain each other. The group was supposed to tell two tales each along the way, and then two more tales on the way back. The company also made a wager: whoever tells the best tales by the end of the journey gets their meal paid for by the rest of the group.
Chaucer originally meant to write approximately 120 tales to for this book, however, there are only 22 full stories and 2 fragments. Unfortunately, he died before the manuscript was finished. The book wasn’t published until 1478, 78 years after Chaucer died.
Poverty & Riches
The Friar is one of many religious figures that Chaucer put on the journey to Canterbury.
His actual name is Hubert, and he’s also one of many that is corrupt. A friar back in these days promised to lead a life of poverty and humility. However, this Friar uses his position to steal by pretending to beg for the poor, but instead, pockets the money. He continues to show his faithlessness by avoiding the lower class, not hearing their confessions, and refusing to help them at all. He chooses instead to hang out in wealthier circles.The Friar also listens to confessions much like a parson or priest.
However, the Friar uses his ability to provide forgiveness to solicit gifts. This led to wealthy people being forgiven while the poor were ignored. Unlike other friars, he also wore expensive clothing, showing a sign of corruption amongst the group that is making the pilgrimage to the shrine.
The Friar was also known for being a wonderful singer and for playing various instruments, which made him a fun man to be around. He had a lovely temperament, and no one complained about his behavior. And his religious corruption didn’t bother anyone in the company.Although there isn’t a detailed description of his looks, he was large in size, due to his love of good food and drink.
He does have a lisp, which was heard even when he sang, yet it seemed not to keep him from seducing women. The story infers that the Friar pays for dowries of women so they can be married, which insinuates that it is likely they were no longer virgins.However, his ability to entertain isn’t the Friar’s only talent. He’s also known to be good in debate, and he helps settle disputes as needed, which isn’t normal for a friar.
Yet, it seems his ability to ingratiate himself into the higher echelon has made his dispute settling an approved part of his profession.
Let’s briefly review. Although a friar is sworn to a life of poverty, the Friar in The Canterbury Tales shows that he can manipulate the system of religion to achieve a life of riches and power. He manages to seduce women, get money for providing God’s forgiveness, and becomes talented at debate to settle disputes for coin.
The Friar is one of many religious characters within The Canterbury Tales that are corrupt.