The Oxford Cleric and The Sergeant of Law

By Joseph Cipriano and
Yuliyan Shvartsman
Oxford Cleric
In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Oxford Cleric is
a peasant-born student who is more rich in
knowledge than money. Quiet and reserved, the
Cleric borrows what money he can from his
companions to spend on books and he always
repays his debts.
•He is a student. “Still a student though”(Line 295).
•Most of his clothing was ragged. “The thread upon his overcoat was bare.” (Line
•He is respectful and formal. “Formal at that, respectful in the extreme.” (Line 315).
•Cared about knowledge more than possessions. “He preferred having twenty
books in red and black of Aristotle's philosophy, to having fine cloths, fiddle or
psaltery.” (Line 304-306)
•He was to out of the normal for employment. “And he was unworldly to make
search for secular employment” (Line 302-303)
Social class- The oxford cleric can be placed in the peasant social class in the medieval
time period.
 The Oxford Cleric’s deadly sin is that he was not involved with the church and he
devotes his whole life to studying and learning.
“He had found no preferment in the church”(Line 301”)
His moral virtue is that he would gladly share his knowledge with other people
and was always open to new information.
“The thought of moral virtue filled his speech, and he would gladly learn and gladly
teach.”(Line 317-318)
The criticism is that he is so obsessed with learning, every time he gets money he doesn’t
buy food or cloths, just more books.
The Sergeant of the Law is the medieval version of a lawyer and a
very good one. He speaks well, writes a tight contract, and knows his
cases by heart. He's often appointed by the king as a judge in the
court. He has outstanding financial success as well. He acquired lots
of land and all that land is "fee simple," to him, meaning that he
owns it free and clear, without having to rely on loans.
•A lawyer. “Wary and wise, for clients at St. Pauls” (Line 320)
•He was discreet. “Discreet he was, a man to reverence” (Line 322)
•He wore nice clothing. “He wore a homely parti-colored coat, girt with a
silken belt of pin stripped stuff”(Line 338-339).
•He acted more busy than he actually was. “Nowhere there was such a busy
man as he, but was less busy than he seemed to be” (Line 331-332)
•The sergeant of law can be placed in the social class of being a Noble.
•The sergeant of Laws deadly sin is that his only care was about gaining
•The criticism is that that the Sergeant seems busier than he really is,
suggesting that he's trying very hard to look like he's earning his paycheck
when really he is kind of lazy.