A realistic character is an important element of literary works. This
"dramatic propriety" is a characteristic that many critics believe is
absent in Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale" due to lack of
believability. However, George Kittredge challenges this view in
"Chaucer's Pardoner", stating that throughout the tale, the pardoner
is indeed an extremely realistic and complex character.
Kittredge's defense of "The Pardoner's Tale" begins with his
acknowledgement of alternative explanations for the pardoner's unusual
confession. Using logic, Kittredge disproves the theory that the
pardoner is "a reproduction of the False-Semblant." Chaucer was "not a
reformer" or "satirist" whose goal is to reform the church. He merely
wished to use different characters to tell his stories. Kittredge also
mentions how the pardoner is not drunk when telling his tale, as only
one draught of ale was consumed, not nearly enough to intoxicate a
seasoned drinker like the pardoner. Through his reasoning, Kittredge
concludes that the pardoner's foolish confession, in fact, has a
purpose for the story.
While the pardoner may seem foolish to reveal his sins and
hypocrisies, there is reasoning behind this madness. Kittredge points
out that the pardoner is "too clever a knave to wish others to take
him for a fool." The pardoner, rather than being an unrealistic fool,
understands that the other members of the pilgrimage perceive him in a
negative light. He does not wish to seem like an ignorant fool,
handing out pardons for sins he also commits. Therefore, he decides to
tell the truth, revealing his false trade, fake ...
... middle of paper ...
...ich to vent his wrath." However, as the pardoner remains
silent, it is clear he is struggling between his "momentary return to
sincerity" and his "revulsion of feeling." The pardoner, unsure of
which emotion to accept, is unable to respond to the host's comments.
This reflects a more realistic attitude: one of uncertainty and
The pardoner is a dynamic character that seems very realistic.
Kittredge's hypothesis that the pardoner was once a sincere friar,
corrupted by his trade, seems very likely. Despite his corruption, the
pardoner has "a moment of moral convulsion," revealing a complex
personality that seems more realistic than an emotionless and
completely corrupted shell. "The Pardoner's Tale", despite what
critics may say, does not violate the "dramatic propriety" that is
critical to literary work.
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