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Essay on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Greed in the Pardoner’s Tale

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The Pardoner’s Greed

 
The pardoner, in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale, is a devious character.  He is a man with a great knowledge of the Catholic Church and a great love of God. However, despite the fact that he is someone whom is looked at with respect at the time, the pardoner is nothing more than an imposter who makes his living by fooling people into thinking he forgives their sins, and in exchange for pardons, he takes their money.  His sermon-like stories and false relics fool the people of the towns he visits and make him seem as a plausible man, which is exactly what the pardoner wants.  In fact, the pardoner is an avaricious and deceitful character whose driving force in life is his motto, “Radix malorum est cupiditas,” which is Latin for “greed is the root of evil.”  The pardoner’s entire practice is based upon his motto and is motivated entirely by greed.

The pardoner is supposed to forgive sins, however, he views his position as a scheme to make money and turns it into a fraud.  His excellent speaking skills allow him to turn this profession into a scam.  He attracts the people with his storytelling and his sermons, which are pleasing to them, “By God, I hope I shal yow telle a thyng / That shal by reson been at youre liking,” (457-58).  One example of a sermon about his motto is the tale of the three rioters.  This tale gives an ironic explanation related to the rioters deaths, due to greed and the pardoners practice of his profession, which is also driven by greed (Rossignol, 267).  He tells the people what they would like to hear, so that he may pull them into his trap and later cheat them out of their money.  His technique to fooling people is to preach on the subject of  “Radix malorum est c...


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...iving.  The pardoner submits himself to his theme of “Radix malorum est cupiditas.” His theme becomes a reality and he  allows avarice to take control his life.  Just as Jesus lived life living into eternal life, the pardoner lives his life dying into eternal death by committing his avaricious acts and deceiving people in the name of God. 

Works Cited

Brewer, Derek.    “The Canterbury Tales.” An Introduction to Chaucer.  New York:    Longman Inc., 1984

Hussey, S. S.    “The Canterbury Tales II.” Chaucer: An Introduction.  New York: Methuen & Co., 1981

Pichaske, David R.    “Pardoner’s Tale.” The Movement of the Canterbury Tales: Chaucer’s Literary Pilgrimage.  New York:  Norwood Editions, 1977

Rossignol, Rosalyn.    “The Pardoner’s Tale.”  Chaucer A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Works.   New York:  Facts On File, Inc., 1999


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