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The Canterbury Tales: The Pardoner's Tale
Transcript of The Canterbury Tales: The Pardoner's Tale
Part of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Summary of the Tale
-Three men are sitting in a tavern having a drink and they hear about a man killed by "Death," and so the three men decide to kill Death.
-They come across an old man who had seen Death, and the men ask him where Death can be found. He directs them to an oak tree a short distance away.
-The three men rush toward the oak tree, and instead of death, they find eight bushels of gold coins. They are immediately consumed by greed and plot to take the gold away.
-Two of the men stay with the gold, while the third man goes to town for supplies. The two men who stay behind, overcome with lust for the gold, secretly plot to kill the third man so that they each get a larger amount of gold.
-Meanwhile, the third man buys poison in the apothecary in town to put in the wine that his two "friends" will drink, in order to take all the gold for himself.
-The third man returns with the food and poisoned wine, at which time the first two men kill him. In their celebration, they unknowingly consume the poisoned drink and perish from it.
-It is in this way that the greed of the three men caused them to fall victim to Death, the very "person" they were trying to kill in the first place.
-The prologue of the pardoner reveals his psychological traits by describing the work he does.
-The pardoner "preaches" with lies that so amaze the members of his congregation that they shower him with gifts of money.
"I preach...And tell a hundred lying mockeries...[and] out come the pence...for myself" (lines 11-12, 20)
-All of his sermons describe greed as the source of evil.
"I have a text, it always is the same...'Radix malorum est cupiditas'" (line 5, 8)
-His sermons slander certain individuals, or even abstract subjects, such as "Death" in his own tale, without explicitly naming them.
"For him from slandering falsehood there shall be...For though I never mention him by name the
the congregation guesses...from certain hints...And so I take revenge upon our foes" (lines 33, 35-38)
-He states that he plans to use his money to live well, furthering the notion of his own greed.
"I mean to have money, wool and cheese and wheat...let me drink the liquor of the grape" (lines 66, 70)
-The pardoner's psychological traits form a very ironic character who preaches against the very greed that he himself displays.
The Bubonic plague caused enragement at death. The plague drives the story. The plague was brought from China into Italy. One third of the population was gone, and there was no known medical treatment.
Poverty was a large issue. Many people were farmers and laborers. Shrinking amount of workers from the plague caused a demand for jobs and a higher wage.
The story is laden with dark humor, found through recognizable irony and personification.
It’s a sales pitch for the pardoner, in selling pardons or relics.
Diction is clear and descriptive. The story is poetic, sing song adding to humor.
Chaucer uses poetic diction to write this story.
He uses rhyming couplets for the rhyme scheme
“And we will kill this traitor Death, I say!
Away with him as he had made away…” (lines 119-120)
The lines are arranged in iambic pentameter:
“It’s OF | three RI | otERS | I HAVE | to TELL |
Who, LONG | beFORE | the MORN | ing SERV | ice BELL” (lines 81-82)
Most sentences have a normal structure, but some contain inverted syntax:
“Many and grisly were the oaths they swore…” (line 128)
1.) "In this affair, and each defend the others, and we will kill this traitor" (p.127 ll118-119).
2.) "Dearly beloved, God forgive your sin and keep you from the vice of avarice" (p133 ll328-329).
3.) "That thou, to thy creator, Him that wrought thee, that paid his precious blood for thee and bought thee, Art so unnatural and false within?" (p132 ll325-327)
1.) "You know that you can trust me as a brother; Now let me tell you where your profit lies" (p129 ll230-231).
2.) "Trust me...you needn't doubt my word. I won't betray you. I'll be true" (p130 ll244-245).
3.) "Trust me, no ghastlier section to transcend what these two wretches suffered at their end. Thus these two murderers received their due, so did the treacherous young poisoner too" (p132 ll315-318).
1.) "It's one of three rioters I have to tell who, long before the morning service bell, were sitting in a tavern for a drink. And as they sat, they heard the hand-bell clink Before a coffin going to the grave" (p126 ll81-85).
2.) "When they had gone not fully half a mile, Just as they were about to cross a stile, They came upon a very poor old man" (p127 ll131-134).
3). "At once the three young rioters began to run, and reached the tree, and there they found a pile of golden florins on the ground" (p128 ll190-193)
The main message conveyed in the Pardoner’s Tale is that “greed is the root of all evil”, though two other themes also occur:
·Corruption – of religion, of the Church
·Hypocrisy – within the Pardoner
The Pardoner's behavior and character traits expose the greed and sin the author writes about.
The humor contributed by diction, syntax, and tone helps emphasize the issues in the story.
The content presented in the appeals back up what Chaucer is saying.