Written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 1300s, the Canterbury Tales is a compilation of stories told by pilgrims on their way to visit Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury. One of the characters is a monk, who is intended to represent religious figures of that time.
The monk is introduced as being dressed very richly and wearing expensive furs, which goes against his religious vow of poverty. He has also taken many liberties with his vow of chastity as he openly admits to hunting and drinking excessively. While this behavior goes against his religious duties, Chaucer portrays him more sympathetically than judgmentally. He is described as “a lusty bacheler” and “hooly and digne”, indicating that he might be seen as an example of someone living life to its fullest rather than someone who has strayed from their vows.
The monk tells a tale about a young man named Griselda who marries Walter, a wealthy marquis. Walter puts Griselda through several tests to prove her loyalty, including taking away their two children without explanation and demanding that she accept her marriage being annulled without complaint. In the end, Griselda passes all of these tests, showing extreme loyalty and patience throughout them all despite not knowing why they were happening.
This story could be viewed as highlighting two sides of religious devotion—following one’s vows strictly while also showing mercy and understanding when dealing with those who do not follow them as closely as expected—which could relate back to how Chaucer portrayed the monk himself earlier in the narrative.