The Comparison and Contrast of the ‘Squire’ and ‘Nun’s Prioress’ in ‘Geoffrey Chaucer’s: “The Canterbury Tales”’


Geoffrey Chaucer the great English writer saved his name eternally when he wrote two of the most famous poems in English literature: ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ and ‘The Canterbury Tales.’ Though Chaucer never finished the latter, it still holds a major position in literature because of the satirical style he used to mock the feudal estates. Now, the use of pilgrimage in English Literature was very popular at the time of Chaucer, so ‘The Canterbury Tales’ was about a group of people going on a pilgrimage together. Stock Characters too, were well admired in a person’s work, and though Chaucer used a lot of characters that are typical icons in literature, he was famous for making his characters unique. Chaucer fired his attacks on the feudal estates through the introduction of these typical, yet individual, characters in his ‘The General Prologue.’ 

Chaucer mentioned the ‘Squire,’ who was the son of the noble ‘Knight’, which made him of the ‘Noble’ estate. Further description of the squire showed that though Chaucer the Narrator admired him, yet Chaucer the Poet was skeptical. The same admiration and skepticism occurred when the supreme nun in the prior the ‘Nun’s Prioress,’ was mentioned, who was of the ‘Clergy,’ estate. The comparison and contrast between the two different characters that belonged to two different estates shall prove this point.

Firstly, the physical description of both characters showed us that the two characters were beautiful. Chaucer the Narrator stated, that Madam Eglantine, or the Nun’s Prioress had: a very coy smile, a pleated headdress, well-formed nose, eyes as gray as glass, small full red lips, a fair forehead, and big hips. While Chaucer the Poet wondered why someone devoted to god is still interested in worldly things, like looking pretty to be admired by human beings. Similarly, the Squire: had curly hair, was of moderate length, and was covered in flowers. Whereas Chaucer the Poet thought that the Squire was not the type of man training to become a Knight, who’s duty is to fight for his God, his Lord and his Lady.

Secondly, the mental psychology of the two characters showed us that both are actually kind hearted and sweet. Chaucer the Narrator liked the Nun’s Prioress’ behavior because she was so charitable, friendly and merciful. Unlike Chaucer the Poet’s inclination, because he thinks that the Nun’s Prioress is actually too sensitive, to the extent of sentimentality. ‘She would weepe if that she saw a mous’ (p.218, 144). Likewise, Chaucer the Narrator thought the Squire was fast, strong, fresh, a fantastic singer, a splendid painter, a wonderful writer, and also very humble. In contrast though, Chaucer the Poet thought that his absent mind that cares more for making up songs and whistling is not going to let him develop his skills to become a great Knight. ‘Singing he was, or floiting, al the day:’ (p.217, 91).

Lastly, from reading the short texts on both characters we can gather that their Body Humor is ‘Sanguine’. Chaucer the Narrator explains how the hot-blooded Nun’s Prioress, has a broche on with the letter ‘A’ after ‘Amor vincit omnia’, which means ‘Love Conquers All.’ Chaucer’s cynicism stems from the fact that someone married to God should not bother about ‘love.’ The same with the hot-blooded Squire who is described as a ‘Lovere and a lust bacheler,’ (p.217, 80). The Squire should worry about more important things rather than just think of ‘love,’ especially since he’s on a pilgrimage.

In conclusion, even though the Nun’s Prioress and the Squire came from a different estate, they show many similarities, like: their beautiful physical appearance, their absent mind that cares about trivial things and their obsession with love. Therefore, Chaucer the Poet delivered his ironical contempt through the enthusiasm and admiration of Chaucer the Narrator, making his stock characters special, and his message light.