Essay on Chaucers: The Pardoner's Corruption Tale

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Written in the fourteenth century by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales bursts its way into the literary world, and quickly made its mark as one of the early English masterpieces. Its poetic verses often disguised the disdain that Chaucer possessed for the hypocritical behaviors that were (and in many ways still are) present with the religious leaders. Throughout this lyrical writing, Chaucer tackles the opulent monk, the corrupt friar, and the flirtatious nun. However, the Pardoner is one of Geoffrey Chaucer's more difficult characters to understand. Chaucer did not place much faith in the monastic church that was so prevalent during his time, and it is quite prevalent in the character of the Pardoner; a man that did not practice what he preached, abused his power, and delighted in the love of money.
Despite preaching against greed, corruption, gluttony, and covetousness, the Pardoner in The Canterbury Tales possessed the very qualities that he spoke against. Even though this “forgiver of sin” preached that money and possessions were not the way to heaven, the reader finds out early in Chaucer's general prologue that the Pardoner is, none-the-less, obsessed about his possessions. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer states “For in his wallet, he kept it safety stowed”. (Chaucer) The properties that this Pardoner cared the most for, he kept them tucked away, neatly in his wallet. His sole thought was to keep his possessions protected from the outside world. Dr. Walter Clyde Curry, a former English professor at Vanderbilt University, wrote in The Journal of English and Germanic Philology,
That [the Pardoner] is an abandoned rascal delighting in hypocrisy and possessed of a colossal impudence...after hearing his shameless con...

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... the Pardoner beckons to his audience, as he has done so many times before, for bobbles and pennies, so that he may bestow blessings upon them.
The overtly unsympathetic character of the Pardoner provides the reader with an insight of how Chaucer viewed the church, or rather how Chaucer viewed the hypocritical attitudes and behaviors of those in the church. Instead of making their top priority the greater good, the Pardoner in the tale had ulterior motives for performing his job, which were greed, gluttony, and power. Rather than doing what was right, the Pardoner would use slight of hand magic to hypnotize his listeners and con the people out of their money. With so much corruption inside the church, Chaucer felt that there would be little to no help for the church to improve its ways, and be what God had originally intended a church to be, a place to heal souls.

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