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The Canterbury tales is a collection of tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the late fourteenth century. During that period, Catholic Church was very rich and powerful. The Prioress is introduced when he begins to write about the practices in the Church.
She was a nun of the highest order, a role model for other nuns and an individual commanding respect in the society. She was unique and was never seen serving the public which was the prominent duty of the Prioress. She was charming and appeared to be modest and coy. Her name was Madam Eglantine which is a French name rich in romantic associations of courtly love as well as those of religious devotions. She sweared by Saint Eloy who ironically never swore himself. This shows that she was not trustworthy and makes false promises.
She believed that she sang well but she intoned in straight through her nose. She did not receive the best of training and had only been to Stanford-le-bow. Other women went to Italy or France. But, she was taught how to behave in the society. Her table manners were impeccable and she never let a morsel of meat fall from her mouth onto her breast nor did she dip her fingers into the sauce. She wiped her lips so clean that not a speck of grease remained after her meal. She imitated courtly manners and remained dignified at all times. She was attracted to the public rather than the ways of the Church. She liked to mingle and show off. Red was an expensive dye at that time and she could afford to wear it underneath. She copied the looks of aristocratic women in walking and behaviour to gain reverence. The Prioress was supposed to be simple and chaste in nature and fulfilling the aim of the Church which is to serve the public.
She was also charitable and piteous but is never seen serving the society. Chaucer made interesting associations with the use of animals. She took pains to feed the little dogs roasted flesh, milk and fine white bread. She was more worried about her pets and gave them much more importance than the society who actually starved and rarely ate meat. She was sensitive and she squealed every time she saw a dead mouse or when men smote it with a rod. Her broad forehead which should have been covered was clearly visible for Chaucer as he even mentions its breadth. Her wimple which should have been plain was decorated and meant to impress. She was not an undergrown woman and her cloak was neat. Her fancy rosary shows that the Prioress was more devoted to earthly possessions than to Christ. She had a golden sheen instead of the holy cross. Also the coral beads on her arm suggests that she took a liking to jewellery. On her brooch of golden sheen were the words, “Amor Vincit Omnia” which means ‘Love conquers all’ and was not meant for the nuns. There was no tinge of love towards the society.
Chaucer was well known for his treatment of class system as in the Canterbury tales. He used caricature to show her as a portrait. He showed that she had no interest in religion or God. He exposed the corruption of the character of Prioress in the Church.

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