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Good Vs. Evil in "the Friar's Tale"

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Society has always judged a person on his level of morality. This level of judgment has been evident since the immoral acts of Adam and Eve were committed. Some of these acts are dishonesty, adultery, and ignorance. "The Friar's Tale" makes these moral issues clear through various characters. The summoner and the Devil both show dishonesty, abuse of power, and mercilessness. In this short story, Chaucer illustrates the theme of immorality and how it affects the character of all the persons in the tale.

.Characters display dishonesty in "The Friar's Tale". The summoner steals the money that he collects from peasants. Chaucer illustrates this act of immorality when he says,

"Now do I. I never spare to take a thing, knows God, unless it be too heavy or too hot. What I get for myself, and privately, no kind of conscience for such things have I".


The summoner is being dishonest to the people that he collects from by not telling him that he keeps the money. The summoner admits to the Devil that he steals. The summoner also says that he has no conscience. Therefore he can not be kept from evil.

(Gray 115)

Bowden addresses the summoner's immorality when he states,

"Fact and fiction both condemn him as especially licentious and dishonest. He also mentions how Gower writes of him as pretending to be poor but, in actuality, as being as rich as a king"

(Bowden 55).

Stealing is immoral, and Bowden reinforces that the summoner is immoral and steals beyond need. He is also being dishonest to his Archdeacon by not giving him the collections. The devil persuade the summoner into committing immoral acts. He makes the summoner believe that he himself is a thief as well. We see this happen when the devil says,

"My wages are right scanty, and but small. My lord is harsh to me and niggardly, my job is most laborious, you see; and therefore by extortion do I live"


Hallissy agrees when he states,

"When Geoffrey comments that the friar likes the company of such people better than that of lepers and beggars...such worldly values are inappropriate in a follower of Christ".

(Hallissy 33).

By hanging out with those of higher status, the friar proves that he is not carrying out his vows. Hallissy suggests that the summoner, who should be a model for the community, is immoral. He agrees with Chaucer when he acknowledges the immoral ways of the characters in "The Friar's Tale". Even after the devil reveals his true identity to the summoner when he says, "I am a demon" (184), the summoner does not change his ways and thus continues to steal. The old woman manipulates words when speaking with the summoner. Chaucer shows these words when the summoner whispered to his brother,

"here lives an ancient crone who'd quite as gladly lose her neck as own she must give up a penny, good or bad. But I'll have twelve pence, though it drive her mad or I will summon her to our office"


Chaucer is saying that the old crone is selfish and stingy with her money. She says that she does not have twelve pence when she knows that she could sell her house and pay the tax. Paying taxes to her king is her duty and by not doing everything she can to fulfill this duty is wrong.

Characters in "The Friar's Tale" abuse the powers that they have. The Devil abuses his power when he states,

"And with that word this foul fiend to him bent; body and soul he with the devil went where summoners have their rightful heritage"


He chooses to bring the summoner to eternal damnation out his spite, meaning that the devil is truly evil. Therefore, he takes advantage of his power, and does God's job by deciding the pure from the impure mortals when he damns the summoner to hell. The removal of the unclean souls from earth is not his activity in which to take part.

The summoner also abuses his power when he collects money from the tax payers. He uses his level of power to extract money from the penniless. The summoner takes advantage of those who are not as smart as he. He knows that he can get away with stealing from the peasants so he does. The summoner illustrates this abuse when he says,

"Twelve pence to me, and I'll have you acquitted. Small profit there for me, be it admitted; my master gets the profit, and not I. Come then, and let me ride on, speedily; Give me twelve pence, I may no longer tarry"


The summoner knows that the citizens are at his will and will do anything that he requests of them. When he overcharges them he abuses his power, and he is able to do this because he is at a higher intellectual level than they. Ames agrees with Chaucer when he states that,

"This 'Judas' made a great profit by black mail. Without telling his superior, the archdeacon, without showing a warrant, he threatened with excommunication uneducated men who filled his purse to silence him"

(Ames 56).

Hallissy backs Chaucer's views when he says,

"... The Friar is a member of a religious order; like them, he is supposed to be committed to poverty, chastity, and obedience; like them, he violates his vows"

(Hallissy 32).

The friar is displayed as being an immoral person. Since the friar is telling the story, this ultimately means that his characters are immoral as well.

Characters in "The Friar's Tale" are unmerciful throughout the poem. The summoner shows a lack



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