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summoner essay final

summoner essay final - Gaddis 1 The Portrait of the...

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Gaddis 1 The Portrait of the Summoner: King of Outlaws by Andrew Gaddis
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Gaddis 2 In his work “The Canterbury Tales”, Chaucer introduces the summoner by describing his “fyr-reed cherubynnes face” (General Prologue, line 626). Biblically, cherubs are the second most holy order of angels. The book of Genesis depicts them guarding the east side of Eden with “flaming swords turned every way” (Gen. 3:24). Accordingly, cherubs in traditional medieval literature are always portrayed with bright red faces. The job of the medieval summoner somewhat parallels the action of these angels, using the “flaming sword” of excommunication to preserve the spiritual innocence of the community. However, like many of the ecclesiastical figures in the Canterbury tales, we later discover that the summoner is a highly immoral and reprehensible character, who uses his church given powers for personal gain. His crimson face, which in reality is the caused by scores of incurable boils and pimples, is the ironic plight of the summoner. Despite his best efforts, “Ne oynement, that wolde clense and byte, That hym myghte helpen of his wheldes white” (G.P. 633-634). What he fails to realize is that his face is emblematic of his soul, which is what truly needs to be cleansed. The narrator goes on to rather mercilessly describe the sinful and ridiculous manner in which the summoner behaves: “And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood; Thanne wolde he speke and crie as he were wood. And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn, Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn.” (G.P. 637-640). His excessive consumption of red wine is analogous to his abuse of ecclesiastical power. Furthermore,
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