Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Comparing The Pardoners Tale and The Nun's Priest's Tale

Good Essays
Irony in The Pardoners Tale and The Nun's Priest's Tale

Irony is the general name given to literary techniques that involve

surprising, interesting,or amusing contradictions. 1 Two stories that

serve as excellent demonstrations of irony are "The Pardoners Tale" and "

The Nun's Priest's Tale," both from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

Although these two stories are very different, they both use irony to teach

a lesson.

Of the stories, "The Pardoners Tale" displays the most irony.

First and foremost, the entire telling of the story is ironic, considering

just who is the teller. The Pardoner uses this story to speak out against

many social problems, all of which he himself is guilty of. He preaches

about drunkenness, while he is drunk, blasphemy, as he attempts to sell

fake religious relics, and greed, when he himself is amazingly greedy.

Yet there are also many ironic situations in the story itself. The irony

starts when, in the begining of the story, the three rioters make a pact

to "be brothers" and "each defend the others" and "to live and die for one

another" in protection from Death, (lines 37-43) and then in going out to

fulfill their vow, they end up finding money, and killing each other over

it. Even more ironic, is how they end up killing each other. After

finding the money, the men plan to stay with it until it becomes dark and

they can safely take it away. To tide themselves over until then, they

send the youngest one out to get food and wine, and while he is away they

plan to kill for his share of the money. Ironically, the youngest one is

planning the same thing so he slips poison into the drinks...

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...tion. By teaching this in two very different stories Chaucer makes

it very clear that irony is an extremely effective method of teaching a


Works Cited and Consulted

Arrathoon, Leigh A. "The Pardoner's Tale," Chaucer and the Craft of Fiction. Ed. Leigh A. Arrathoon, Rochester, Michigan: Solaris Press, Inc. 1986. 241-318

Beidler, Peter G. "The Nun's Priest's Tale" Chaucer Review Vol: 34, Issue: 4. April 01, 2000. 388-397

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales: Riverside Chaucer Third Edition. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,1987. 3-328 Secondary

Taavitsainen, Irma. "Personality and styles of Affect in the Canterbury Tales" Chaucer in Perspective. Ed. Geoffrey Lester.Midsomer North, Bath: Sheffield Academic Press Ltd. 1999. 218-232

White, Annie "Irony in Chaucer's Tales,'" 20 Jan. 2001.
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