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The Pardoner's Tale

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by

Shelly Horvath

on 6 August 2014

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Transcript of The Pardoner's Tale

A pilgrimage is a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.
The Canterbury Tales
is a collection of 24 stories narrated by a group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury Cathedral to the shrine of the martyr Thomas Becket.

The Pardoner is one of the pilgrims on the journey who tells a tale about greed. He is a "supposed" affiliate of the church whose job is to "pardon" people from their sins.


The Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Terms to know...

Allegory
: a narrative that has both a literal meaning and a deeper, symbolic meaning
Exemplum
: an anecdote, example, or story inserted into a sermon to teach a moral lesson
Situational Irony
: when something occurs opposite of what is expected
Personification
: giving human characteristics to something not human

Death is Personified in "The Pardoner's Tale"
Death was often portrayed as a sinister figure or a skeleton, appearing in front of people when they least expected it, claiming them and carrying them off. Sometimes he was represented with a spear. What mattered in such representations was that those encountering death were not ready. Any soul unprepared for death, dying with its burden of sins, would be in danger of eternal damnation.
"The Pardoner's Tale"
The theme of the pardoner's tale is
Radix malorum est Cupiditas

(Greed is the root of all evil).

Given what you know about the Pardoner's motive, why is the theme of his tale
ironic
?
from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
"The Pardoner's Tale"
The Pardoner wants to cash in on religion in any way he can, and he does this by selling tangible, material objects—whether slips of paper that promise forgiveness of sins or animal bones that people can string around their necks as charms against the devil. After telling the group of pilgrims how he entices people into indulging his own avarice through a sermon he preaches on greed, the Pardoner tells of a tale that exemplifies the vice decried in his sermon.
The Pardoner preaches to people to encourage them to buy forgiveness for their sins, but he only cares about getting their money. He sells fake relics and pardons, pocketing the money for himself.

The Reality of Death in
Medieval England

The chances of living to old age were much lower in Chaucer's time than they are in modern England. During the fourteenth century, there were famines, as well as the plague known as the Black Death.

Even without the plague, there was high infant mortality, and sudden and unexpected deaths were relatively common. Many men and women died young because it was not known that poor sanitation and hygiene helped disease to spread. These normal dangers surrounding medieval people made acceptance of one's own mortality a sensible outlook.
In your journal, respond to the following:
In what ways might the circumstances of the plague in Chaucer's time have made people vulnerable to the tricks of the pardoner and other unscrupulous clergymen?
Please open your Close Reader workbooks to page 19.

Vocabulary
:
avarice
-greed
castigate
-to criticize
publican
-innkeeper; tavern owner
hoary
-gray or white with age
parley
-a discussion
Full transcript