Analysing The Pardoner In Canterbury Tales English Literature Essay

The Pardoner in the Canterbury Tales is hypocritical, gluttenous, revengeful, and vindictive towards others ; he is morally and spiritually pervert in the extreme. He does, nevertheless, tell a narrative that, as he promises it shall be in the subdivision that precedes his prologue, a valid discourse against greed and greed. When Harry Bailey speaks at the terminal of the Pardoner ‘s Tale, he does non reject the narrative but the Teller, the Pardoner. Chaucer the poet competently presents the Pardoner as a skilled speechmaker and conman and he intentionally illustrates that it is possible for a character far beyond salvation to state a moral narrative.

The Pardoner tells a moral narrative against greed, gluttony, and the love of money. The latter is a subject that the Pardoner says is ever cardinal to his discourses, mentioning the Latin, the love of money is the root of all immorality. The beginning of the narrative, which was portion of common folklore in Chaucer ‘s twenty-four hours, is an Oriental myth.

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The three rioters who are cardinal to the narrative, damn themselves literally and metaphorically. They betray each other over gold and their desire for it. They besides drink and gamble overly. Upon larning that an old friend of theirs has died, they further damn themselves by traveling in hunt of decease.

The Pardoner tells a narrative, nevertheless, that is both informative and valid as a discourse because it is loaded with advice against drunkeness and gluttony. The Pardoner cites illustrations of narratives from the Bible, excessively, to exemplify the dangers of inebriation ( Solomon and John the Baptist ; Lot and his girls ) and gluttony ( Adam and Eve ) .

There can be no uncertainty that the narrative is moral. The Pardoner professes himself that although he is a ‘ful barbarous ‘ adult male, he can still state a moral narrative.

The Pardoner as a character, an person, and a exemplification of a group of professional clerics is wholly amoral and, despite stating a moral narrative, Chaucer uses assorted markers to exemplify why he can non be trusted or accepted on any degree.

One of the most revealing qualities that Chaucer gives the character of the Pardoner is rhetorical accomplishment. The characteristic necessity for Chaucer to exemplify that the Teller of the narrative can non be accepted is haughtiness.

The inquiry of authorization is cardinal to the Pardoner ‘s narrative and its significance both seperated fro and as portion of The Canterbury Tales. As the Pardoner is such a skilled speechmaker, Chaucer implies, utilizing the Pardoner and besides by choosing Harry Bailey, one of the most astue of the pilgrims and a conman himself, to expose him and silence him so he can non talk a word more.

Apparently profoundly affected by the Physician ‘s sad and ghastly narrative of Virginia, the Host praises the Doctor by utilizing as many medical footings as he can rally. However, he rejects the Physician ‘s moral to the narrative and substitutes one of his ain: Therefore the gifts of luck and nature are non ever good ( “ The gifts of Fortune and Nature have been the cause of the decease of many a individual ” ) . Thinking that the pilgrims need a gay narrative to follow, the Host turns to the Pardoner. The more civilized members of the company, fearing that the Pardoner will state a vulgar narrative, inquire the Pardoner for a narrative with a moral.

The Pardoner so explains to the pilgrims the methods he uses in prophesying. His text is ever “ Radix malorum est cupidatis ” ( “ Love of money is the root of all evil ” ) . Always using an array of paperss and objects, he invariably announces that he can make nil for the truly bad evildoers and invites the good people forward to purchase his relics and, therefore, absolve themselves from wickednesss. Then he stands in the dais and preaches really quickly about the wickedness of greed so as to intimidate the members into donating money.

He repeats that his subject is ever “ Money is the root of all immoralities ” because, with this text, he can denounce the really frailty that he patterns: greed. And even though he is guilty of the same sins he preaches against, he can still do other people repent. The Pardoner admits that he likes money, rich nutrient, and all right life. And even if he is non a moral adult male, he can state a good moral narrative, which follows.

In Flanders, at the tallness of a black pestilence, three immature work forces sit in an hostel, feeding and imbibing far beyond their power and cursing curses that are worthy of damnation. The revellers mark the passing of a casket and ask who has died. , A retainer tells them that the dead adult male was a friend who was stabbed in the back the dark before by a stealer called Death. The immature revellers, believing that Death might still be in the following town, make up one’s mind to seek him out and murder him.

On the manner, the three work forces run into an old adult male who explains that he must roll the Earth until he can happen person willing to interchange young person for old age. He says that non even Death will take his life. Hearing him speak of Death, the revellers ask where they can happen Death, and the old adult male directs them to a tree at the terminal of the lane. The revellers rush to the tree and happen eight bushels of gold coins, which they decide to maintain. They decide to wait for dark to travel the gold and pull straws to see which 1 will travel into town to acquire nutrient and vino. The youngest of the three draws the shortest straw. When he leaves, the two others decide to kill him and split his money. The youngest, nevertheless, desiring the hoarded wealth to himself, buys toxicant, which he adds to two of the bottles of vino he purchases. When the youngest reveller approaches the tree, the two others stab him and so sit down to imbibe the vino before they dispose of his organic structure. Therefore, all three so find Death.


From the Pardoner ‘s position, the Physician told a cheaply pious narrative and the Host, a holier-than-thou sap, reacts to the narrative with what seems high congratulations. Then, after praising the Doctor, the Host turns to the Pardoner and asks for a gay narrative or gags ( “ som myrthe or jokes ” ) , even though sermon is the Pardoner ‘s profession.

The Pardoner agrees by jeeringly repeating the same oath the Host has merely used- ” By Saint Ronyon. ” The reverberation of the Host indicates, if anything at all, the Pardoner ‘s annoyance at hearing the Doctor praised as being “ like a Prelate ” ( “ lyk a prelat ” ) . The Pardoner is farther insulted when some members of the company call with one voice, “ No, do n’t allow him state dirty gags! ” ( “ Nay, lat hym telle us of no ribaudye ” ) . The Pardoner will hold his retaliation on all the complacent, holier-than-thou critics, and he resolves to believe his retaliation out carefully.

The dry relationship between The Physician ‘s Tale and The Pardoner ‘s Tale-and therefore the Physician and Pardoner-is that both work forces are egotistic hypocrites. However, one of the two, the Pardoner, possesses adequate self-knowledge to cognize what he is ; the other, the Doctor, being smug and affected, does non.

The map of a forgiver in Chaucer ‘s clip was to roll up moneys for charitable intents and to be the Pope ‘s particular agent in distributing or honoring subscribers with certain forgivenesss as a remittal for wickednesss. By canon jurisprudence, a forgiver was required to stay in a certain country ; within this country, he could see churches, receive parts, and, in the Pope ‘s name, dispense indulgences. An honest forgiver was entitled to a per centum of the return ; nevertheless, most forgivers were dishonorable and took much more than their portion and, in many instances, would take all the parts. Therefore, as he boasts, Chaucer ‘s Pardoner belongs to the latter class-that is, he speaks of how much he collects by declining to give indulgences to anyone except the really good people.

In his prologue, the Pardoner frankly confesses that he is a fraud motivated by greed and greed and that he is guilty of all seven wickednesss. Even though he is basically a dissembler in his profession, he is at least being honorable as he makes his confession. But so, ironically, at the terminal of his narrative, he requests that the pilgrims make a part. Therefore, for many grounds, the Pardoner is the most complex figure in the full pilgrim’s journey. He is surely an rational figure ; his mentions and cognition demonstrated in the narrative and his usage of psychological science in acquiring merely the good people to come frontward attest to his mind. But in doing his confessions to the pilgrims about his lip service, he seems to be stating that he wishes he could be more sincere in his ways, except that he is excessively affectionate of money, good nutrient and vino, and power.

The Pardoner takes as his text that “ Love of money is the root of all evil, ” yet he emphasizes how each relic will convey the buyer more money ; in stressing this, he sells more and additions more money for himself. Therefore, his text contains a dual sarcasm: His love for money is the root of his immorality, yet his gross revenues depend upon the buyer ‘s love of money. Furthermore, his technique of trusting upon basic psychological science by selling merely to the good people brings him more money. His discourse on greed is given because the Pardoner is filled with greed and this discourse fills his bag with money.

Scholars, critics, and readers in general see The Pardoner ‘s Tale to be one of the finest “ short narratives ” of all time written. Even though this is poesy, the narrative fits all the makings of a perfect short narrative: brevity, a subject competently illustrated, brief word pictures, the inclusion of the symbolic old adult male, rapid narrative, and a speedy turn of an stoping. The full narrative is an exemplum, a narrative told to exemplify an rational point. The topic is “ Money ( greed ) is the root of all evil. ”

The Pardoner ‘s Tale ends with the Pardoner seeking to sell a relic to the Host and the Host assailing the Pardoner brutally. At this point, the Knight who, both by his character and the nature of the narrative he told, stands as Chaucer ‘s symbol of natural balance and proportion, stairss between the Host and the Pardoner and directs them to snog and be reconciled. In the struggle between the Host and the Pardoner, the Pardoner-whose functionary function is to acquire work forces to name on God for forgiveness of their sins-is merciless in his wrath ; that is, the Pardoner is unwilling to excuse, and the forgiveness is effected merely when the baronial Knight stairss in.




objects esteemed and venerated because of association with a saint or sufferer ; here, the Pardoner ‘s relics are false.



Lot ‘s girls got their male parent rummy and so seduced him ( from the Book of Genesis in the Bible ) ; the Pardoner ‘s point is that Lot ne’er would hold committed incest if he had non been rummy.



the scriptural “ strong adult male. ” He revealed the secret of his strength to Solome, who so betrayed him to his enemies.



a town in Spain noted for its strong vinos.


Cheapside and Fish Streets

streets in London that were known for the sale of strong liquors.



See Proverbs 31:4-7.


King Demetrius

The book that relates this and the old incident is the Policraticus of twelfth-century author John of Salisbury.



an Arabian doctor ( 980-1037 ) who wrote a work on medical specialties that includes a chapter on toxicants.


St. Helen

the female parent of Constantine the Great, believed to hold found the True Cross

The Pardoner ‘s Narrative

There one time lived in Flanders a company of three rioters who did nil but engage in irresponsible and iniquitous behaviour. At this point, the storyteller interrupts the narrative itself to establish a drawn-out fulmination against drunkenness – mentioning Herod, Seneca, Adam, Sampson, Attila the Hun and St. Paul as either beginnings or famed rummies. This in bend curiously becomes a fulmination against people whose tummies are their Gods ( their terminal, we are told, is decease ) , and so a fulmination against the tummy, called, at one point a “ stynkyng pod, fulfilled of dong and of corrupcioun ” ( a stinking bag, full of droppings and rotten affair ) . This distraction from the narrative itself ends with an onslaught on dice-playing ( die here called “ bicched castanetss ” , or curst die ) .

The three rummies were in a tavern one dark, and, hearing a bell ring, looked outside to see work forces transporting a cadaver to its grave. One of them called to his slave to travel and inquire who the cadaver was: he was told by a male child that the cadaver was an old chap whose bosom was smashed in two by a secret stealer called Death. This rummy agreed, and discussed with his comrades how this “ Death ” had so slain many people, of all ranks, of both sexes, that really twelvemonth. The three so made a vow ( by “ Goddes digne castanetss ” ) to happen Death and slay him.

When they had gone non even half a stat mi, they met an old, hapless adult male at a manner, who greeted them politely. The proudest of the rummies responded impolitely, inquiring the adult male why he was still alive at such a mature age. The old adult male answered that he was alive, because he could non happen anyone who would interchange their young person for his age – and, although he knocked on the land, imploring it to allow him in, he still did non decease. Furthermore, the old adult male added, it was non gracious of the rummies to talk so impolitely to an old adult male.

One of the other rummies responded still more impolitely that the old adult male was to state them where Death was, or regret non stating them in a heartfelt way. The old adult male, still polite, told the rummies they could happen Death up the crooked manner and underneath an oak tree.

The rummies ran until they came to the tree, and, underneath it, they found eight bushels of gold coins. The worst one of them spoke foremost, reasoning that Fortune had given them the hoarded wealth to populate their life in happiness – but recognizing that they could non transport the gold place without people seeing them and believing them stealers. Therefore, he suggested, they should pull tonss, and one of them should run back to the town to bring staff of life and vino, while the other two protected the hoarded wealth. Then, at dark, they could hold where to take the hoarded wealth and carry it safety. This was agreed, and tonss were drawn: the youngest of them was picked to travel to the town.

However, every bit shortly as he had gone to the town, the two staying rummies plotted amongst themselves to knife him upon his return, and so split the gold between them. While he was in the town, the youngest idea of the beauty of the gold coins, and decided to purchase some toxicant in order to kill the other two, maintaining the gold for himself. Therefore, he went to an apothecary, bought some “ strong and violent ” toxicant, poured it into two of three vino bottles ( the tierce was for him to imbibe from ) , topped them up with vino, and returned to his chaps.

Precisely as the other two had planned it, it befell. They killed him on his return, and sat down to bask the vino before burying his organic structure – and, as it happened, drank the toxicant and died. The tale terminals with a short discourse against wickedness, inquiring God to forgive the trespass of good work forces, and warning them against the wickedness of greed, before ( this, we can assume narrated in the Pardoner ‘s voice ) ask foring the fold to “ come up ” and offer their wool in return for forgivenesss.

The narrative finished, the Pardoner all of a sudden remembers that he has forgotten one thing – that he is transporting relics and forgivenesss in his “ male ” ( pouch, bag ) and begins to ask for the pilgrims frontward to have forgiveness, motivating the Host to be the first to have his forgiveness. “ Unbokele anon thy purs ” , he says to the Host, who responds that the Pardoner is seeking to do him snog “ thyn old rear of barrel ” ( your old bloomerss ) , cursing it is a relic, when really it is merely painted with his crap. I wish, the Host says, I had your “ coillons ” ( testiss ) in my manus, to shrine them in a pig ‘s crap.

The Pardoner is so angry with this response, he can non talk a word, and, merely in clip, the Knight stairss in, conveying the Pardoner and the Host together and doing them once more friends. This done, the company continues on its manner.


The Pardoner has – in recent old ages – go one of the most critically discussed of the Canterbury pilgrims. His narrative is in many ways the example of the contradiction which the construction of the Tales themselves can so easy work, and a good standard for foregrounding exactly how Chaucer can perplex an issue without of all time giving his ain sentiment.

Therefore the Pardoner embodies exactly the textual riddle of the Tales themselves – he utters words which have perfectly no correlativity with his actions. His voice, in other words, is wholly at odds with his behaviour. The Pardoner ‘s voice, at the beginning of his narrative, rings out “ every bit unit of ammunition as gooth a belle ” , citing his fold: and yet his church is one of utmost bad religion. There is a echt issue here about whether the Pardoner ‘s narrative, being told by the Pardoner, can really be the “ moral ” ( 325 ) narrative it claims to be. For, while the narrative does so show that money is the root of all evil, does it still number when he is prophesying “ agayn that same frailty / Which that I use, and that is avarice ” ( against the very frailty I commit: greed ” ) . How far, in other words, can the Teller contradict his ain lesson?

Yet the existent job is that the Pardoner is a successful sermonizer, and his net incomes point to several people who do larn from his addresss and atone their wickedness. His Tale excessively is an accurate presentation of the manner greed and avarice lead to evil. Hollow executing however, the Pardoner is an first-class sermonizer against greed. His voice, in short, operates irrespective of his actions. Hollow sentiments produce existent consequences.

This is besides reflected in the imagination of the narrative itself. The Pardoner hates full tummy, preferring empty vass, and, though his “ billfold ” may good be “ bretful of pardoun comen from Rome ” ( 687 ) but the moral worth of this paper is nil: the billfold, hence, is full and empty at the same clip – precisely like the Pardoner ‘s discourse.

In merely the same manner Chaucer himself in the Narratives can ventriloquize the sentiments of the pilgrim – the Reeve, the Pardoner, the Merchant – and so on, without really perpetrating to it. Because the Tales themselves, in purportedly reproducing the “ revealing ” of a certain pilgrim, really do ordain exactly the discorporate voice which the Pardoner represents. The moral paradox of the Pardoner himself is exactly the paradox of the Tales and their series of Chaucer-ventriloquized discorporate voices.

There is a doubleness, a switching equivocation, about the Pardoner ‘s dual audience: the fanciful fold he describes, and the assembled company to whom he preaches, and tells his “ lewed narratives ” , even naming them Forth to excuse at the terminal. The point is clear: even though they know it is insincere, the Pardoner ‘s shtik might still work on the assembled company.

The imagination of the Pardoner ‘s Tale besides reflects this cardinal hollowness. The narrative itself is strewn with castanetss, whether in the curse sworn “ by Goddes digne castanetss ” , whether in the word for curst die ( “ castanetss ” ) or whether in the castanetss which the Pardoner materials into his glass instances, feigning they are relics. The literary landscape is strewn with organic structure parts, and losing, absent organic structures: get downing with the anon. cadaver carried past at the beginning of his narrative. Boness, tummies, coillons – words for organic structure parts cover the page, about as a inexorable reminder of the ubiquity of decease in this narrative.

The General Prologue, proposing that the Pardoner resembles a “ gelding or a female horse ” , hints that the Pardoner may be a inborn castrate or, taken less literally, a homosexual, and, as the Host seems to propose at the terminal, might good be without his “ coillons ” , a Middle English word significance both “ relics ” and “ testiss ” . All of the “ relics ” in this Tale, including the Pardoner ‘s, evade the appreciation of the manus. The Pardoner therefore can be categorized along with the other bizarrely feminized males in the Tales, including Absolon, Sir Thopas, and, if we believe the Host, Chaucer ( the character ) .

And of class, at the centre of the narrative, there is a hunt for person called “ Death ” which, of course, does non happen the individual “ Death ” , but decease itself. It is a successful – but finally unsuccessful – hunt. All that is left over at the centre of the Tales is the bushels of gold, sitting under a tree unclaimed. The root of the narrative, as its moral similarly suggests about the root of immorality, is money: and money was, to a mediaeval reader, known to be a religious “ decease ” . Notably, furthermore, in the narrative, both “ gold ” and “ decease ” displacement from metaphor to world and back once more ; a orderly reminder of the ability of the Tales to hedge our appreciation, raising hard inquiries without of all time replying them.



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