Analysis of the Doctor in the Cantebury Tales

Analysis of the Doctor’s Character

Geoffrey Chaucer has created a wide variety of characters in “The Canterbury Tales”, in order to explain the status of the existing classes in the society of his own time. What makes “The Canterbury Tales” such u unique story, is the technique the author uses describing his characters. He has a great sense of humor, and it is the humor he uses as a weapon to ridicule those characters, who use society’s weaknesses to their own benefits. A perfect example of the aforementioned fact, would be the Doctor.
“A doctor too emerged as we proceed; No one alive could talk as well as he did On points of medicine and surgery, For, being grounded in astronomy” (p. 73), Chaucer portrays the doctor as a man of great knowledge, yet his knowledge on medicine is based on astrology, which is a science that would be of no help when it comes to curing patients suffering from different diseases. As we advance in Chaucer’s description of this particular character, it is obvious that the doctor was not interested helping his patients, rather he was more concerned how much money would he be able to earn from them. “…He gave the man the medicine than and there. All his apothecaries in a tribe were ready with the drugs he would prescribe, and each made money from the other’s guile;” (p. 73). Before getting into any details, it is important to realize that in Chaucer’s time education was not a primary concern for society in general. Thus, suffering people living in the darkness of ignorance had no other choice other than acting upon the doctor’s advice. Therefore the whole idea of doctor-patient relationship was nothing but a scheme, intended to earn an easy way of living for the doctor and his pharmacist friends, simply by using society’s lack of knowledge.
On the other hand, the doctor tries to build a good and solid reputation in society, as if he must be as famous, and clever as a doctor would ever be. “He was well-versed in Esculapius too and what Hippocrates and Rufus knew and Dioscorides, now dead and gone, Galen and Rhazes, Gali, Serapion,…”(p. 74). The doctor mentions stories, to his patients and others, about these great men who played an important role in the development of a more civilized world, only to show his fellows how far his knowledge had reached and maybe to imply that when he is dead and gone he should be remembered just like these immense figures of history. Consequently, I can state that the doctor was practicing very cunning methods to win the trust of those who knew little, thus let themselves depend on this “trustworthy” medical quack.
Even though the doctor was well off financially wise, he lived “…in his own diet he observed some measure; there were no superfluities for pleasure… he kept the gold he won in pestilences” (p. 74). Thus there is another “quality” added to the doctor’s character, stringiness, which could relate to that of many of rich people. Often the more people have the less they tend to spend, or share, whereas poor communities are inclined to share more.
While Chaucer is ridiculing the Doctor, and underlining some negative sides of his character, such as greed, cunningness, and stringiness, his main goal is to make the reader realize that such characters have existed and will continue to exist in our society for as long as man shall live. Therefore his analogy is said to be universal since it is applicable at all times.