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Chaucer - The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale

In Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale," the author provides a portrait of a hypocritical Pardoner in the prologue, but despite this, the Pardoner's tale is wholly moral. We are told in the Prologue that the Pardoner is guilty of jealousy and greed, profiting off indulgences and passing off pigs' bones as the genuine relics of dead saints. As the Pardoner makes clear of his greedy nature, "All my preaching is about avarice and such cursed things, to make them generous in giving their pence and especially to me. My aim is all for gain and not at all for the correction of sin" (Chaucer 503-505). Yet, in the Pardoner's tale, three drunken and greedy men pay for their greed by ironically dying in their search for Death. In the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale, Chaucer is implying that despite being sinners themselves, our best means of learning how to avoid sin is the clergy.

The Pardoner makes it quite clear in his Prologue that despite his own greed, his easiest method of gaining income is to make his parishioners repent for their own avarice. The Pardoner also makes it clear that though he is as guilty of avarice as anyone, he is better able than most to make others repent for their sin. As he tells us, "I preach for no motive but avarice from which my theme is and always was, Radix malorum est cupiditas. Thus can I preach against that same vice which I practice, avarice. But though I may be guilty of it, I can make other people depart from avarice and repent sorely" (Chaucer 430-433). That the Pardoner's favorite theme is greed is the root of all evil is ironic because he is only concerned about profit.

Despite the Pardoner's own sinful nature, Chaucer seems to provide him with a tale that is wholly moral and does bear out the Pardoner's claim in the Prologue that he is better able than most to make others repent for their avarice through his story-telling abilities. As the greedy Pa...

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Chaucer - The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:50, December 02, 2020, from