Terry Jones argues that the Ellesmere manuscript was censored in the early 15th century, suggesting “that there was a nervousness about owning this particular manuscript of The Canterbury Tales.” He focuses on three of the manuscript's pilgrim portraits—those of the Knight, the Monk, and the Friar—and bases his claims of alteration around “recent microscopic analysis [that] shows significant changes were made to the Ellesmere manuscript—probably around the time that Archbishop Arundel was stamping on all criticism of the Church and outlawing the English language as a medium for theological debate.” However, Jones' claims often go far beyond any microscopic evidence he has, while other claims he makes are not supported with evidence at all.
[...] Jones further claims that may also be that the Friar was originally dressed in white (as a Carmelite, or possibly grey as a Franciscan) and has been again over-painted with ubiquitous black pigment that has been used on the Monk.” Again, Jones gives no evidence for a suggestion other than implying that the Friar's dark robe is similar to the black clothing of the Monk. A comparison of the two portraits however shows that the Friar's robes are predominately brown as compared to the obvious black of the Monk's and do not have the heavy handed strokes present in the Monk's illumination. [...]
[...] Emmerson also claims that pictures places before the tales do not illustrate the earlier text [of the General Prologue] but provide an alternate set of portraits, now visual rather than verbal, now of the tale- tellers rather than of the previously introduced pilgrims.” Thus, Emmerson argues, the Ellesmere “miniatures serve more as visual titles than as illustrations or interpretations” of the Chaucer's narrative, hence why the portraits are at the beginning of a pilgrim's tale rather than next to their descriptions in the General Prologue. [...]
[...] was on the warpath against any criticism of the Church.” However, the Monk's portrait retains several elements that suggest his worldliness. The Monk's horse is adorned with heavily gold-accented harness, bridle, and reins even though, according to Jones, his golden pin has been covered up because of its suggestion of the Monk's material interests. Furthermore, the Monk is pictured with his greyhounds. Not only are the greyhounds hard to miss in the manuscript—they are nearly the size of the Monk's horse—but just the owning of hunting dogs is a clear indicator of wealth and a concern of appearance on the owner's behalf. [...]
[...] As for the “three scallops theme” Jones claims is present in the Knight's clothing, this detail can again be explained as not particularly unique to the Knight's miniature or the various portraits of Hawkwood mentioned by Jones. While Jones claims the Knight is wearing strange skirt” which is “quite unlike any garment worn at this period,” the portrait does not make this claim obvious. The Knight's outfit is all of the same color and pattern—grey with vertical stripes—and can easily be interpreted as a one solid piece of clothing, such as a tunic. [...]
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