Throughout Geoffrey Chaucer's "General Prologue" to Canterbury Tales, there are characters that he seems to admire greatly, such as the Knight and others that he makes a mockery of, the Prioress. Chaucer uses different methods and descriptions to characterize each character within the "General Prologue." Accompanying the methods of characterization, Chaucer also assigns gender specific stereotypes. Upon deeper character analysis of the Prioress and the Knight, one is able to decipher that Chaucer used demeaning qualities to describe female characters and more noble qualities for the male characters.
At the beginning of Chaucer's description of the Prioress, one would describe Chaucer's words as favorable and possibly flattering. He writes, "Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioress; / That of hir smiling was ful simple and coy. / Hir gretteste ooth was but by sainte loy!" (line 118-120). However, Chaucer's description soon turns to sarcasm. The Prioress provides many examples of Chaucer's methods of characterization in female characters through assigning her demeaning qualities of shallowness, aristocratic desire and unfaithfulness. The introduction depicts a woman in a nun's habit; however, Chaucer puts a great deal of emphasize on her aristocratic manner and public persona.
The Prioress's pretentiousness is demonstrated in her attempt to imitate refinement. Chaucer is quick to point out her attempts as superficial. Her actions are an indication of her shallowness. Chaucer uses her knowledge and use of the French language as an example of her shallowness. The narrator says, "And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetishly, / After the scole of Stratford at the Bowe- / For Frenssh of Paris was to hire unknowe" (ll.124-126). The Prioress is flaunting her education and expertise by using French when address the other pilgrims. Chaucer says that "Paris" French is unknown to her and that would indicate that she learned her French from books and teachers, rather than time spent in Paris.