Understanding Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale

Length: 5 Pages 1225 Words

Understanding Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale” “The Pardoner’s Tale” (Coghill, 1977) was written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Middle Ages. As stated by Takami Mastuda the tale “warns against the deadly sin of avarice and teaches that spiritual death can indeed become the cause of physical death and eternal damnation” ( 313). The Pardoner tells a story dealing with death in order to get the pilgrims to buy indulgences. “ ‘The Pardoner’s Tale’ ultimately questions the efficacy of worldly prudence in the face of death. With this tale Chaucer approaches the theme of death with critical knowledge of the late medieval scheme of salvation...” (Mastuda 324). The tale puts considerable emphasis on the character of the Pardoner, and his personality. “The tale is a demonstration of the Pardoner’s usual tactic, in which he manipulates the readings of an orthodox exemplum for personal gain, stressing, as the tale conveys the dreadful consequence of coveting money” (Mastuda 314). A question that is often asked in regard to “The Pardoner’s Tale” is why Chaucer chose a pardoner. “Certainly, their scandalous reputation would have suggested them to Chaucer as likely candidates for any study in Continue...


It was important that Chaucer used a pardoner on this pilgrimage to tell this specific story. "It is well known that ill fame clung to pardoners which, when Chaucer was writing, was as much traditional as it may have been warranted in reality (Fletcher 118). "The work of a Questor was, in itself, useful and even commendable. but because it lets Chaucer hide behind a character traditionally corrupt yet into whom he can safely introduce the resonance of the most urgent and topical theological argument of his day (Fletcher 119). The Pardoner tries to sell fake relics to the pilgrims in exchange for the absolution of their sins. "The Pardoner can be related to 'death' from another viewpoint as well. "Although the Pardoner does not openly equate money with death, he quickly and firmly brings the tale to a conclusion, implying that it is better to part with the cause of death and exchange it for the promise of salvation as quickly as possible (Mastuda 317).