Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Pardoner’s Tale” is a story about three young men who set out to find death in order to kill him. Along the way, they meet a old man who tells them a story about three young men who did the same thing. The old man turns out to be death, and he kills the three young men.
The main characters in Chaucer’s tale are the three young men, their guide, and death. The three young men are nameless, but their guide is named Harry Bailey. He is an experienced pardoner, and he knows how to get what he wants from people. Death is personified in the story, and he is shown as a skeletal figure with a scythe. He is the one who ultimately kills the three young men.
Chaucer’s characters are interesting because they are not entirely good or evil. The three young men are motivated by greed, but they also have a sense of adventure. Harry Bailey is also greedy, but he is also able to help the young men. Death is neither good nor evil, but he does kill the three young men. This makes him seem more like a force of nature than anything else.
In literature, the connection between an author and his work has long been recognized. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s frame narrative, Canterbury Tales, many of the characters express this notion through their stories. There is a strong relationship between the Pardoner and his tale. The Prologue to the Pardoner’s story emphasizes the Pardoner’s character. Although the Pardoker has several key qualities, his avarice is most evident.
The Pardoner’s Tale is a story about three young men who are on a quest to kill Death. Along the way, they meet an old man who tells them that they will find what they are looking for in a nearby grove. When the three men enter the grove, they find gold coins scattered on the ground. They each grab as many as they can and begin to argue over who has more. While they are arguing, Death sneaks up on them and kills them.
The moral of the Pardoner’s Tale is that greed will lead to your downfall. The Pardoner uses this tale to try and scare people into giving him money. The fact that he is so greedy makes him a perfect example of the moral of his own story. Chaucer uses the Pardoner’s Tale to warn people about the dangers of greed, and the Pardoner’s character helps to drive this message home.
While the Pardoner’s Tale is a work of fiction, it is clear that Chaucer used his own life experiences to influence the story. The Pardoner’s greed is a representation of Chaucer’s own greed. In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer was a very successful writer.
He was appointed as the Clerk of the King’s Works in 1389 and given many other high-ranking positions throughout his career. However, despite his success, Chaucer was not a wealthy man. He was constantly in debt and had to rely on the generosity of others to get by. This generosity is likely what inspired Chaucer to write the Pardoner’s Tale.
Throughout the prologue, the Pardoner exhibits his avarice. He adds, “I speak only for profit” (“Pardoner’s Tale”, Line 105). This greed is noticeable in the Pardoner’s tale as well. Three friends set out on a journey to murder Death while on their way they encounter an elderly man who leads them to a treasure trove. All three of the characters in this story display similar greed to that of the Pardoner.
The first friend, after hearing of the old man’s death, plans to take all of the treasure for himself. The second friend makes a similar plan, but is caught in the act and killed by the first friend. The third friend then tries to take the treasure, and he too is killed. In the end, all three friends are killed by their own greed.
The Pardoner is also very hypocritical. He claims to have a relic which will cure any ailment, yet he knows that it is fake. In addition, he asks for money even though he is supposed to be pardoning people of their sins. The Pardoner’s hypocrisy is seen most clearly when he preaches against greed, yet at the same time he is trying to get people to give him money.
The Pardoner’s tale is full of irony. The three friends in the tale are killed by their own greed, while the Pardoner himself is greedy. In addition, the Pardoner claims to have a relic which can cure any ailment, yet he knows that it is fake. The Pardoner’s hypocrisy is also ironic, as he preaches against greed even though he himself is greedy.
The three pals agree that someone should go out and get bread and wine for a party. As the youngest of the friends departs to get wine, the other two conspiratorially plot to kill him so they can share the loot equally. Even the youngest member of the group determines that he will “put it in his mind to buy poison / With which he might murder his two companions” (383, 384). Hypocrisy is another characteristic exhibited by the Pardoner and a character in one of his stories.
The Pardoner sells pardons, which are basically get-out-of-jail-free cards. However, he is not above breaking the law himself. In fact, he openly admits to cheating people and tells the story of how he once robbed a man who was lying drunk in the road. The Pardoner is also incredibly self-righteous, telling the other characters that they should be ashamed of themselves for their greed and lust. He even goes so far as to say that it is these same sins that have led to the death of his three friends.
While the Pardoner may be the most overtly hypocritical character in the tale, he is not the only one. The three friends in the story are also guilty of hypocrisy. They claim to be on a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of St. Thomas à Becket, but they are really just looking for an excuse to drink and gamble. Additionally, they are quick to judge and condemn others for their sins, but they are just as guilty of these same crimes.
The “Pardoner’s Tale” is full of characters that are driven by greed, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. Geoffrey Chaucer uses these characters to warn against the dangers of these deadly sins.
The Pardoner is, however, extremely avaricious, continuing to attempt to convey the thesis that “avarice is the source of all evil” (6). The characters in his narrative are also revealed to be highly immoral. At the start of the narrative, the friends act very trustworthy and loyal towards all of their friends. They nobly risk their lives attempting to kill their friend’s murderer. When discussing their challenge, they pledge: “to live and die each one for the other as if he were his own blood brother” (241-242). The “brothers” began showing their true colors at the conclusion of the tale.
Once they find the gold, their greediness quickly consumes them. They start to argue about who deserves the money and eventually kill each other. The Pardoner’s Tale is a perfect example of how Geoffrey Chaucer uses irony and sarcasm to display the themes of greed and hypocrisy.