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Chaucer's Canterbury Tales On The Pardoner Character Palucas
An Ironic Tale of Hypocrisy
Chaucer's work titled, The Canterbury Tales, reflects his life and the politics of the medieval era. Written between 1347 and 1400, this work is considered Chaucer's masterpiece. It is organized as a collection of stories told by a group of travelers on pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury. The Canterbury Tales reflects the diversity of fourteenth-century English life while reflecting the full-range of medieval society with the pilgrims sharing tales that span the medieval literary spectrum. Here critics concur that Chaucer brings each character to life and creates truly memorable individuals. Within the framework of the Canterbury Tales are ten parts that appear in different order in different manuscripts. Critics believe that Chaucer's final plan for this work was never realized because he either stopped working on the piece or died before he could place the sections in sequence. This paper will focus on the character of The Pardoner.
Chaucer portrays the Pardoner's character in an ironic manner as one who is very Christian or churchlike. Sadly, the Pardoner takes advantage of innocent poor people by selling them fraudulent holy relics. The Pardoner's hypocrisy in preaching sets the ironic tone of against cupidity when his own motives are purely avaricious (Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, 736, 1987). He enjoys telling tales that are filled with morality; however, his method of living can sometimes be somewhat questionable. One of the Pardoner's favorite sayings is "Love of money is the root of all evil." However, his greed is evident when he works to take advantage of people's religious ignorance. He befriends people and earns their trust by showing his official certificates, then adds spice and color to his sermon by saying a few words in Latin. He easily impresses the laypeople and thus inspires them to become closer to God. His phony religious relics are then put on display so that he might earn a few dollars from the good people that he is serving. The Pardoner warns that he will not sell his relics to sinners and only good people can be absolved by making an offering to him. He then admits that this is the way in which he has earned a100 marks in a year. He maintains that his sermons are against greed and materialism, and this message encourages people to freely give him their money.
Sadly, he admits that his profit is his motivation, and he truly could care less about helping sinners become pure again. This character preaches against sin, but acknowledges that he indulges in various vices and begs from the poor to make a profitable living.
The Pardoner's physical appearance is not attractive. His appearance is described as somewhat revolting for he is a beardless man with a thin goat-like voice. Chaucer describes his hair to be waxy and yellow, which hangs from his head like, strands of flax. His songs are repulsive and Chaucer suggests in the "General Prologue" that the Pardoner is a eunuch.
Somehow, the corrupt Pardoner still manages to hold a congregation captive while he tells a moral tale. This in itself is very ironic.
The Pardoner works his listeners to gain their sympathy by admitting his weaknesses and sins. His confessions are interesting to the crowds, and he finds pleasure with his role as a preacher. He enjoys being an entertainer and performing before the sinners and pretending to search for those who are good. He admits that while he is guilty, he is talented enough to know how to preach against avarice and make people repent. The Pardoner says that although he is a vicious fellow he can tell a tale with a moral and have an audience who will listen. The Pardoner appears to be amused at the thought that his sermons inspire devotion and the desire for redemption within his congregation.
The Pardoner's Tale fits all of the standard criteria of a good short story.
Although critics have analyzed "The Pardoner's Tale" extensively, no one has noticed Chaucer's clever use of the word capouns in this work (Reiff, 856). The Pardoner he portrays as totally corrupt. To emphasize this point, Chaucer parallels the Pardoner's moral depravity with physical deformity and he portrays the Pardoner in a very "un-masculine" light. In "The General Prologue,…[continue]
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