Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Ethics, Evil, Knight, Culture, Good And Evil, Chaucer, Morality, Behavior

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/09


What do we know about good and evil? Adults teach children whether one is good or bad, the knowledge of dichotomy of Good and Evil. This knowledge may be presented in different way. The dichotomy cannot be always consistent, because what people used to consider bad a century ago, now is taken for granted and is not prohibited. Geoffrey Chaucer in his poem “The Canterbury Tales” created an overall picture of this idea of Good and Evil. Different people from various estates tell their stories: it may be the Clergyman who preaches sermons about the Good from the viewpoint of Catholic faith, or the Miller who says that the only existing evil is the good intention to help. In this essay we shall look through the existing standard of understanding what the dichotomy of good and evil is, and how it is revealed through Chaucer’s poem.


Every culture is based on the dichotomy of good and evil. Human behavior is motivated by his instincts, which form a complex system. From this perspective, a person determines whether it is good or bad because of their instincts. What threatens his life and well-being is considered bad, and vice versa, that is nice – is considered good. The oldest layer of morality, which goes back to the original human groups that make up the basic "prohibitions" condemning and punishing behavior, is certainly recognized as "bad". After the formation of tribal alliances and states these bans have become ethical prescriptions or "commandments", an ancient form of which we can find, for example, in the Old Testament (FENCHEL 79). We chose this moral code of many other, very similar to it, because it formed the basis of Christian culture in the future - European or Western, presently prevailing on Earth.
The primary mechanism of culture that is present in the most primitive cultures is a system of ideas about the desirable and undesirable situations described by the values of culture. Positive values ​​of culture called the situation, to which man should aspire to this culture; negative values ​​- a situation which he should avoid. The first of these means for the culture of "good", the second - "evil"; together they define normal behavior of this culture. Unusual behavior is perceived as poor and condemned, and in "serious" cases, shall be punished. There always the dichotomy acts: that is not "good", the "evil", "no middle ground." (FENCHEL 81). For example, Chaucer created a number of representatives of different estates in order to fulfil the picture of the values of culture. First of all, when the Monk wanted to start his tale, the Miller interrupted him: “By God's soul," said the Miller,/ "I will not. I'll either speak or else be on my way."/ Our Host said, "What the devil,/ have your say!/ You are a fool, your wit is overcome."/ (3135)"Now listen," said the Miller,/ "all and some!” (Williams 383). The Miller claims that his tale will be as noble, as the Knight’s one. The author averts the reader: “must recount/ The bad tales with the good or else discount/ Material and thereby falsify. (3175)/ Those wishing not to hear it, pass it by” ("EChaucer." 2015). In this tale the problem of different estate arises for the first time: when the Host wanted the Knight to continue his noble tale. The Knight considered sufferings as the divine symbol of the hand of God, as something inevitable, and a thing that people cannot know or understand. In a bit different way, the Miller claims that: “One shouldn't be inquiring anyway/ Into God's privities or his spouse's. May/ He find God's plenty in her, that's enough/ 3165/ He shouldn't pry into that other stuff." John from the Miller’s tale says that a man should not assume that his wife is bad and unfaithful. Absalon, the church clerk from the "Miller’s TALE," for example, appears in the role of a minister of religion - lover. He is a church clerk, semi spiritual face, but his thoughts turned away from good, away from God: “This parish clerk so jolly, full of fun,/ Could not, for the love longing in his heart,/ Take offerings from wives, he'd take no part,/ 3350/For courtesy, he said, and never might.” The prevalence of such an image of Bad in the essential good (a bad clergyman) in the literature is showed, except for numerous French fabliaux, in one of the ballads placed in the collection «Secular lyrics of the XlVth and XVth centuries». The behavior of the hero of this little poem is very similar to the actions of Absalon. This repeatability is a typical way of making placing bad in good, and vice versa. The opposition, where something bad reveals good qualities can be proved by the example of the Miller himself. He was drunk when he presented his story, but his beautiful language, imageries (e.g. “she really was a primrose, quite a peach” talking about his wife), creates a cognitive dissonance in the minds of the readers. Moreover, the religion of the culture delivered an important sanction for its values: the man was always in sight of the powerful supernatural forces, which could hide neither only his actions, nor also his intentions. The central category of morality is good. Good - this is the highest moral value, do good is the main regulative moral behavior. The opposite of good is evil. It is antivalue, i.e. something incompatible with the moral behavior. Good and evil are not "equal" principles. Evil is "secondary" in relation to good: it is only "downside" of good retreat from it. Not by chance in Christianity and Islam, God (good) is omnipotent, and the devil (evil) is only able to entice some people to break the commandments of God. By the example of the Miller’s Tale, we can see that this standard of morality as something good, and unmoral as something bad is followed completely. The concepts of good and evil are the basis of ethical evaluation of human behavior. Assuming that any human acts "good", we give him a positive moral evaluation, and considering it "evil", "bad" - negative.


The statement that the notion Good and Evil can be consistent is wrong, because there are a lot of cultures where these notions are absolutely opposite. The dichotomy of "good" and "evil" contained in the system of values, is a "perfect" character, in the sense that people's actions can rarely correspond to the ideal of good or evil ideal, and often only compared with those ideals and get some public appreciation. As already mentioned, all existing cultures have similar ideas about "good" and "evil" that is, their value systems are an essential part of the total. It can be assumed that this common part refers specifically to "the unconscious conscience", produced in early childhood and is directly related to the common to all men instincts. Anyway, this part contains general, as we have seen, "tribal morality." In contrast, a "conscious" education occurring later in life are those features that distinguish one culture from another. In some cultures, aggressiveness is more appreciated, in others - gentleness; in some – militancy, in the other - hard work. There is no general pattern for good and evil (FENCHEL 85). However, Chaucer in "The Canterbury Tales" opposes to each other images of characters – the Knight and the Pardoner, as the Good is opposed to the Evil.
The Good is represented by the Knight. Critics consider the Knight as the ideal figure of Good represented by Chaucer (along with the Monks and the Plowman). A central feature is a worthy knight: "a worthy man" ("honorable man"), "ful worthy was he in his lordes werre" ("he did not disgrace with his Worthy the knight family"), "and evere honoured for his worthynesse" ("recognized (all) his valor in battle ")," this ilke worthy knyght "(" this worthy knight ")," he were worthy "(" he was worthy "). At the lexical level, it should be noted a large number of epithets representing the key characteristics of the character: "worthy" ("worthy"), "wys" ("smart"), "verrey" (true) ("true"), "parfit" (perfect) ("flawless"), "gentil" ("noble"), "honoured" ("honored"). Repeatedly emphasized generosity and worthy of the Knight: "loved chivalerie, trouthe, fredom, honour, curteisie" ("he loved honor, courtesy and freedom"), "honoured for his worthynesse" ("honor for valor"), "he no vileynye ne sayde "(" he did not curse his mouth with abuse"). Everything that surrounds the Knight, that somehow relates to his image, is good, worthy and noble, has a grandeur: "at many a noble armee hadde he be", "in the Grete see" ("the Great Sea"), "hadde been also somtyme with the Lord of Palatye" ("He also visited with Lord of the Chamber") ("EChaucer." 2015).
Chaucer seems to utilize the "General Prologue" to describe the different pilgrims, not so that the audience can get a sense of what the character is like, but to give us the character's flaws. The image of the Knight, who is considered the ideal of Good, has some shortcomings, and thus, the reader gets some attitude that in subsequent portraits descriptions will meet such departures from the idealization of certain images. But, nevertheless, it should be noted that Chaucer talks quite quietly and casually about the shortcomings of the Knight, he openly mocks them and even sarcastic, while presenting the other pilgrims. The Knight and the Plowman, with regard to moral qualities, are at opposite poles, they represent good and evil, but with a twist (Eyler.
Two images shown in contradistinction, however, have certain similarities: both the Knight, and the Plowman are called "gentil" and the "noble". But apart from these epithets, they do not have more in common - two characters are completely different. The context of the two epithets involves the formation of completely different images of the two characters. The Knight is named as a true, worthy knight - "verray, parfit gentil knyght" ("EChaucer." 2015), but with the overall tone of ironic passage, where a portrait of the Plowman is represented, the reader generates a different way, a different character. Of all the pilgrims, Chaucer compares with animals only the Plowman, in this way he differs from the others: “A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot.” ("EChaucer." 2015) It is a well-known fact that the symbol of goat represents the Evil itself. Chaucer does not contrast the Plowman as a complete evil: all his characters are either good, but with several shortcomings, or bad (evil), but again, it is not completely bad.


In real life there are both good and evil people, they do both good and bad deeds. The notion that there is there is a struggle between the "forces of good" and "evil forces" in the world and in man is one of the fundamental ideas that permeates the entire history of culture.
Chaucer, with all the softness of his relations even to perverse people, creates a clear picture: immorality is always immoral, virtue is always virtue. The reader cannot doubt that some actions of the characters are good, the others stand for evil, in this case the nature of the characters may begin some mental movement, they change, but the moral core specified by the author is always clear. His stories are clear with the moral burden, even when subjects are taken from fabliaux when they are banal - the author makes some conclusions, distinguishing the dichotomy of Good and Evil.

Works cited

"EChaucer." Chaucer Texts. Chaucer in the Twenty-First Century. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.
FENCHEL, GERD H. "Good And Evil." Issues In Psychoanalytic Psychology 35.1 (2013): 78-87. 
Lewis, Celia M. "History, Mission, And Crusade In The "Canterbury Tales." Chaucer Review 42.4
(2008): 353-382. 
Williams, Tara. "The Host, His Wife, And Their Communities In The "Canterbury Tales." Chaucer
Review 42.4 (2008): 383-408.

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Example Of Good Vs Evil Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-good-vs-evil-essay/. Published Dec 09, 2020. Accessed June 18, 2024.

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