Poor translation when used for Tendai or Zen monastics. Used to translate such terms as "unsui" or "cloud-water-person". The basic idea is to admit that there is no safe place and live like it.

In Nethack, the most difficult class to play - even worse than Tourists. Monks cannot wear any sort of body armour without a severe to-hit penalty, so they find it much harder to obtain a good armour class than characters who can wish for dragon scale mail. They are also not very good with weapons, but if they are granted an artifact they may find it better to wield it rather than relying on their martial arts. Finally, they suffer a small penalty every time they eat meat, but this can be safely ignored after the early stages.

In Slash'Em, the easiest class to play and suitable for newbies. Provided that they do not wield a weapon, wear a shield or wear body armour other than robes, they have a big bonus to their intrinsic armour class, which increases with their experience level. Also, the first artifact they get from their deity is the Gauntlets of Defence, which gives half physical damage. Their martial arts seem to do considerably more damage than in Nethack, and they can do even more damage using their techniques.

The Canterbury Tales Project (see also Geoffrey Chaucer)

Back to the Prioress/The Monk/The Friar

165: A monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie,
166: An outridere, that lovede venerie,
167: A manly man, to been an abbot able.
168: Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable,
169: And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere
170: Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere
171: And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle.
172: Ther as this lord was kepere of the celle,
173: The reule of seint maure or of seint beneit,
174: By cause that it was old and somdel streit
175: This ilke monk leet olde thynges pace,
176: And heeld after the newe world the space.
177: He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
178: That seith that hunters ben nat hooly men,
179: Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
180: Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees, --
181: This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre.
182: But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre;
183: And I seyde his opinion was good.
184: What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood,
185: Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure,
186: Or swynken with his handes, and laboure,
187: As austyn bit? how shal the world be served?
188: Lat austyn have his swynk to hym reserved!
189: Therfore he was a prikasour aright:
190: Grehoundes he hadde as swift as fowel in flight;
191: Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare
192: Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
193: I seigh his sleves purfiled at the hond
194: With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;
195: And, for to festne his hood under his chyn,
196: He hadde of gold ywroght a ful curious pyn;
197: A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
198: His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
199: And eek his face, as he hadde been enoynt.
200: He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt;
201: His eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed,
202: That stemed as a forneys of a leed;
203: His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat.
204: Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat;
205: He was nat pale as a forpyned goost.
206: A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
207: His palfrey was as broun as is a berye.

The monk, coming as he does after the prioress, is nonetheless at first a rather likeable character. Although he too has lapsed from the true path of the monk to enjoy a life of luxury, hunting and eating well, he is sufficiently affable and charismatic to not be as repulsive as the other churchmen who have fallen into depravity.

In but one detail does he conform to his vows as a monk: he is chaste and has no dealings with women. It is in fact possible that he rashly sought out the cloister to escape from a woman. OTOH, he is lustful, as evinced by the host's words much later "If you had the freedom, as you have the power, to copulate as much as you desire, a fellow like you would have fathered dozens!"

The Monk is not avaricious, but is guilty of many of the other deadly sins: he is lustful, as mentioned previously, moreover he is a glutton, loving above all else roast swan, a dish usually reserved for royalty. Finally, he is guilty of sloth. Chaucer says of him ironically 'what good will it do the world for him to study or work with his hands?'

Yet for all his sin, the monk is rather a likeable character. Although compared to the parson or even the prioress he is a sinner, he is still a sympathetic character due to his enjoyment of all the same luxuries we love. He wears comfortable clothes, enjoys leisure, and loves to eat well. Although this makes him a hypocrite, it does not make him despicable.

English translation from www.fordham.edu:

A monk there was, one made for mastery,
An outrider, who loved his venery;
A manly man, to be an abbot able.
Full many a blooded horse had he in stable:
And when he rode men might his bridle hear
A-jingling in the whistling wind as clear,
Aye, and as loud as does the chapel bell
Where this brave monk was of the cell.
The rule of Maurus or Saint Benedict,
By reason it was old and somewhat strict,
This said monk let such old things slowly pace
And followed new-world manners in their place.
He cared not for that text a clean-plucked hen
Which holds that hunters are not holy men;
Nor that a monk, when he is cloisterless,
Is like unto a fish that's waterless;
That is to say, a monk out of his cloister.
But this same text he held not worth an oyster;
And I said his opinion was right good.
What? Should he study as a madman would
Upon a book in cloister cell? Or yet
Go labour with his hands and swink and sweat,
As Austin bids? How shall the world be served?
Let Austin have his toil to him reserved.
Therefore he was a rider day and night;
Greyhounds he had, as swift as bird in flight.
Since riding and the hunting of the hare
Were all his love, for no cost would he spare.
I saw his sleeves were purfled at the hand
With fur of grey, the finest in the land;
Also, to fasten hood beneath his chin,
He had of good wrought gold a curious pin:
A love-knot in the larger end there was.
His head was bald and shone like any glass,
And smooth as one anointed was his face.
Fat was this lord, he stood in goodly case.
His bulging eyes he rolled about, and hot
They gleamed and red, like fire beneath a pot;
His boots were soft; his horse of great estate.
Now certainly he was a fine prelate:
He was not pale as some poor wasted ghost.
A fat swan loved he best of any roast.
His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.

In the First and Third Editions of (Advanced) Dungeons and Dragons, the Monk is a class reliant almost entirely on martial arts for combat purposes. As they progress in experience, they gain mystical powers, eventually becoming able to run like the wind, resist blows, and leap tallish buildings at a single bound.

In the first edition, this class made its first appearance in the Player's Handbook, but was revised in Oriental Adventures, and was considered by some to be broken. In second edition, it was entirely absent, although the Complete Cleric's Handbook had a fighting monk character kit. In the new Third Edition, the Monk is a core class, and appears in the Player's Handbook, although Sword and Fist and the new Oriental Adventures open up more options for them.

Basic D&D's Rules Cyclopedia featured a suspiciously similar Mystic class. Presumably 'monk', along with 'priest', 'god', and 'evil', was a Word Not To Be Said in the old game. I am informed (by sabby) that the mystic originally appeared in the Master Rules Boxed Set.

Medieval Monks

In the early ages of Christianity, also the early Middle Ages, monasticism became one of the most dominant forms of religious expression among the devout. Through oblation or voluntary avowal, the ranks of monks (and nuns--excluding special mention what I say applies to both) in western European monasteries swelled. This 'spiritual workforce,' if I may be so bold as to coin a phrase, did not enjoy a leisurely cloistered life. In addition to sacrificing any wealth and their sexuality (supposedly), monks also worked long hours working in the fields or before an altar praying for the good fortune of the wealthy benefactors of the church, as well as his brothers.

His gain, however, was threefold:

The last point, probably the most surprising, was in many cases also the most important factor for a monk's devotion. Early in the history of monasticism, things were not nearly as contained and restricted as the modern accepted stereotype depicts: the scene with the hooded masochists from Monty Python is especially misleading here--they were flagellants, a very special breed of monk, and not at all appreciated/endorsed by the Church. Actually, the idea of a monk underwent several drastic changes through history, so I suppose I better glance over a few of them.

Pre-Church Monks

Before Constantine's conversion, when Christianity was transformed from a crime to a virtue, monks existed as the very paradigm of Christian life. They lived live secluded from the Roman culture rejecting the often rampant Roman promiscuity, homosexuality, contraception, abortion, and infanticide. Hermitic ascetics lived ideal which many other early Christians only dreamed. In effect they were free, as other Christians were not, to live a holy life as they saw fit (before a pesky institutional Church emerged to define exactly what this life was. Women especially profited as nuns. Whereas as Romans they often had to deal with the acceptance of male infidelity (conversely, an adulteress could be rightfully killed by her husband), as hermits they lived a life a peaceful celibacy. And in some cases some equality.

Monks in the Church and St. Benedict

After the rise of the Church, monasticism was more regulated. Any old hermit with a fondness for God couldn't be a monk. In addition, monks were expected to serve the Church, and not just God, as members of a institutional system of monastery land. St. Benedict's Rule was perhaps the most important document in this regard: it classified the various monks according to holiness in the following manner:

  1. Cenobites (type of monk that live obediently and cloistered)
  2. Anchorites (hermitic monks, lived stationary but independent lives)
  3. Sarabites (“detestable” live in towns in twos and threes)
  4. Gyrovagues
  5. (traveler monks that "indulge in their own wills” much like St. Francis's friars, who come later)
Even after these influential restrictions, monkhood still offered a measure of freedom that was a rare thing indeed in the Middle Ages. It was perhaps the only real lifestyle choice available to the majority of the European population. It offered some amount of peace, a guaranteed measure of control, and what was nearly unanimously considered the greatest freedom of all: eternal life.

My overpriced education
Excerpts from the Rule of St. Benedict in Readings in Medieval History, as edited by Patrick Geary.

*many monasteries were pillaged, nuns raped and murdered. Face it, there really wasn't a safe place to hide in the middle ages, other than under the Pope's robe.

Chaucer's Monk is introduced in The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. The ideal Monk is poor, chaste and obedient, but Chaucer’s interest in people for their very humanity. Despite this idealist portrait of a man of God, he is a self confessed man of the world, attaching to creature comforts such as the pleasures of good food, expensive clothes, and proposing the outmoded nature of Monastic edicts. The way in which the jingling of his fine bridle drowns out the bells of the chapel amply reflects how materialistic influences on his life far outweigh his devotion to the Lord.

Physically, the Monk is described by Chaucer as a ‘manly man’ and a man of the outdoors. As an outrider, the Monk would have spent his time riding from outpost to outpost, to check that affairs were being properly conducted, however he has clearly become corrupted by that which he sought to eradicate. He is portrayed as a clearly corruptible character, in contrast to his pious stereotype. Chaucer likes the Monk precisely because of this wayward streak. If he were to adhere strictly to his guidelines laid out for him, I doubt that Chaucer would find him as appealing a character.

Aware that the Monk’s proposal ‘What sholde he studie and make himselven wood, ...swink to him reserved!’(184-88) makes a mockery of his religious vocation, Chaucer is repeating the appeal to reason in a rather sardonic fashion. In effect, the Monk is asking for a life indistinguishable from that of the Franklin, a wealthy landowner, with no religious duties or restrictions on his pursuit of self-gratification. Although the Monk does not realise how ridiculous he is being, it is so obvious to Chaucer that it does not seem to merit any comment at all. The Monk defends his worldly stance by saying ‘how shal the world be served?’ implying that the level of Godliness desired of him is simply impractical, and were he to follow it, nothing administrative would get done, for purely pragmatic reasons.

The impression is shaped in the following ways. More subtle shades are added to the overall impression of the Monk by Chaucer’s use of irony to subtly point things out whilst maintaining an entirely innocent tone. He appears to mention the ‘love-knotte’ purely incidentally, but it is so drastically in contrast with the discipline the outrider is meant to follow that Chaucer can only be carping at him, as at the Prioresslove token. This casts doubt over the chastity that he is sworn to observe. Excepting the Parson, all the pilgrims fall under this suspicion.

Contextually rich and heavily embroidered with social references, Chaucer sets his General Prologue thoroughly in context, and skilfully manipulates it as a background against which characters can be compared and judged with a the degree of equality with which the society of the time would afford them. A social commentary such as this requires strong links to the society stereotypes that Chaucer is satirising. As time has progressed, not only is this a witty and astute social documentary, but very much an historical record too: describing in detail the lifestyle, eating habits and social makeup of a typical pilgrimage, with caricatures drawn broadly across the society of the time: ecclesiastical figures mingle with knights, with vulgar menial labourers. Truly, Chaucer combines elements taken from moral and material extremes and sets them in a time frame that defines each character in a pan-dimensional fusion that leaves the reader with their appetite whetted for the forthcoming tales.

Tony Shalhoub is Adrian Monk, the former police detective turned independant private investigator in the USA Network series Monk. The show premiered in summer 2002 and follows Monk as he tries to overcome his obsessive compulsive disorder and solve crimes on a per case basis for his former boss at the police department, Leland Stottlemeyer. Working with his caretaker, Sharona Fleming, Monk always cracks the case. The "catch" is that because of Monk's disorder he notices even the smallest piece of evidence. The first two seasons aired to critical acclaim and record ratings for the USA Network, prompting an order for a third season to air in 2004-05. The show is extremely entertaining and I recommend it to everyone.

Monk Episode Guide

Historical footnote: Monk had been in development hell since 1998 when ABC turned down the first incarnation of the series. Intially a post-Seinfeld Michael Richards was sought to play Adrian Monk. After he turned down the role to do The Michael Richards Show, Monk went back into development and by 2001 Tony Shalhoub had been cast as the detective. ABC turned down the series again and the USA Network picked it up for the summer of 2002. Ironically, ABC has bought the rights to air the reruns after the series earned high ratings. The series has been picked up for a second series, and ABC is seriously pursuing the first-air rights. So far USA refuses to let the show go.

A series of interviews linked from http://www.tvtattle.com in September 2002

I was told this story by my friend in Korea who is studying Korean Zen.

One day she asked the head monk, a Polish man who spoke perfect English and Korean. He used his linguistic talent not only to spread peace, but to curse with obscene proficiency in both his second and third languages. In fact, this was no ordinary monk. He spent ten years of his life dancing with drugs of all kinds. Even though he is reformed, he doesnt' regret his choices. Anyway, my friend puts this question to him, "What is it like to be a monk?"

The monk replied: In Poland, dog racing is very popular. And there is this fucking mechanical rabbit (He is quite prone to cursing) that they chase around an ovular track. The dog doesn't even know it is racing for sport, it just sees something that bloody consumes his being, and he goes for it.

For four or five laps around the track, they are constantly chasing this bunny, which is operated by a man in a control tower. His primary job is too make sure none of the dogs actually catch their prey. This human-controlled bunny runs a teasing race, forever out of the dog's chance of obtaining it. Is is so fucking impossible, that if a dog ever does, he gets all the money right then and there.

Well, one day, there was dog by the name of, well, I can't actually remember the dogs fucking name. Anyway, the race started off and all ten dogs lunge for the leading rabbit, charging off at full speed around the track. This dog too, does one lap around, falling behind but giving his whole being in an effort to reach sweet satisfaction.

As the dog enters into his second lap, he all of a sudden just stops dead in his tracks. The men are screaming and urging him to continue on. Instead, the dog walks slowly over to the elevated track that the rabbit rides along, and as it heads for him, he stands motionless. The rabbit comes speeding along to find itself in the victorious jaws of the animal, at which point the dog sits; completely content.

That is what it is like to be a monk. Many people spend there whole lives chasing a goal that is unatainable. A monk stops the race, and contentness and peace just comes to him.

Monk (?), n. [AS. munuc, munec, munc, L. monachus, Gr. , fr. alone. Cf. Monachism.]


A man who retires from the ordinary temporal concerns of the world, and devotes himself to religion; one of a religious community of men inhabiting a monastery, and bound by vows to a life of chastity, obedience, and poverty.

"A monk out of his cloister."


Monks in some respects agree with regulars, as in the substantial vows of religion; but in other respects monks and regulars differ; for that regulars, vows excepted, are not tied up to so strict a rule of life as monks are. Ayliffe.

2. Print.

A blotch or spot of ink on a printed page, caused by the ink not being properly distributed. It is distinguished from a friar, or white spot caused by a deficiency of ink.


A piece of tinder made of agaric, used in firing the powder hose or train of a mine.

4. Zool. (a)

A South American monkey (Pithecia monachus); also applied to other species, as Cebus xanthocephalus.


The European bullfinch.

Monk bat Zool., a South American and West Indian bat (Molossus nasutus); -- so called because the males live in communities by themselves. -- Monk birdZool., the friar bird. -- Monk seal Zool., a species of seal (Monachus albiventer) inhabiting the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the adjacent parts of the Atlantic. -- Monk's rhubarb Bot., a kind of dock; -- also called patience (Rumex Patientia).


© Webster 1913.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.