The Pardoner’s Tale, written around 1387-1400, revolves around numerous vices and lechery. It reflected the corruption of the Catholic Church where there were often gambling, drunkenness and hypocrisy. In the tale, although the Pardoner tells people to not sin, he does it for personal gain by making them feel guilty.Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of the Canterbury Tales, was born in London, England.
His father’s position as a wine merchant and deputy for the king’s butler allowed for Geoffrey to hold numerous high positions in society. With his position as a page, courtier and diplomat, Chaucer was able to learn about the lives of the rich and the effect of their actions on the population. His contribution to the Hundred Years’ War later on caught the attention of King Edward III, who permitted Chaucer to journey to other places. Chaucer was influenced by the works of Dante, Petrarch, and several other writers when he traveled to Italy. As a result, Chaucer began to work on English literature, implementing humor and his observations on the society. In the Pardoner’s Tale, the story begins with the Pardoner giving a sermon about moralistic deeds which can perhaps save the people’s souls. However, he soon reveals that he does this not for the benefit of the people, but for his own good, saying that he is guilty of the sin of greed. The text points out that greed is the root of all evil.
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This was represented with the story of the three men who decided to search for Death only to come across money, “Whyl that thou strogelest with him as in game, And with thy dagger look thou do the same; And than shal al this gold departed be,My dere freend, bitwixen me and thee,” (pp. 362). The plan to kill the youngest man, just shows how petty they were for wealth. The people of the church who were the Pardoner’s audience, consisted mostly of peasants. The tale allows them to relate and feel guilt tripped because if they found money, their actions would be similar to that of the three men. The men were also drunk which led to their bad judgement and death.
The tale involves society at the time because if a king were to drink, his actions and decisions may be questionable as to whether they were good or not. The tale also implies that the act of sinning only leads to more sins, “A lecherous thing is wyn, and dronkenesse. Is ful of stryving and of wrecchednesse,” (pp. 355). The sins of an individual may affect others because if the rich were to live in luxury, the poor would have to provide it with their hard work.
At the end of the tale, Death was not killed, perhaps so that people can fear death when their souls are still bearing sins. This would allow the Pardoner to profit. Geoffrey Chaucer most likely believes that humans are never truly satisfied with that they have because of his thoughts that once an individual sins, they will continue to do so. With the tale, the three men lived their lives being gluttonous, only to die because of it, “And ete also and drinken over hir might,Thurgh which they doon the devel sacrifyse.
With-in that develes temple, in cursed wyse,” (pp. 353). There’s this idea that it’s inevitable to sin. The Death is sweeping the population, killing many. Even the Pardoner who is seen as a pure leader figure fails to fulfill the requirement.
To catch the attention of his audience, Chaucer utilizes irony. The pardoner’s tale mainly criticizes sin and gluttony, only to represent these vices himself.