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Morality and the Relationship Between the Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Pardoner relishing his lifestyle
  3. The nonchalance over dishonesty
  4. Ambiguity is the prevailing sentiment
  5. The Pardoner's return to his tale
  6. The Pardoner's use of his own Prologue
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

Based on his proclaimed ?theme,' Radix malorum est Cupiditas, the Pardoner seems a worthy teller of a moral tale, but based on his description of himself and his work, he seems the least able of the pilgrims to truly appreciate morality. His Prologue offers a picture of a man completely divorced from the spiritual purpose of his occupation; instead of concerning himself with saving the souls of the congregations to whom he preaches, the Pardoner cares only about turning a profit from those willing to make donations to absolve their sins. His knapsack of false relics and questionable papal bulls he parades before his fellow pilgrims, informing them of how he takes advantage of guileless peasants and tricks them into trusting him with their salvation by showing off the relics and flaunting Latin rhetoric during his sermons. One can hardly expect a true moral tale from a man so consumed by avarice, yet his tale seems to preach against the very sin he has so wholeheartedly embraced.

[...] His descriptions of drunkenness are both steeped in allusion and grossly physical, the words of St. Paul juxtaposed against the grotesque image of: ?Whan man so drynketh of the white and rede / That of his throte he maketh his pryvee / Thrugh thilke cursed superfluitee 526-28).? When added to the knowledge the Pardoner has of various wine-making regions, this sort of image suggests that he has more than a theoretical knowledge of the sins of drunkenness. In his subsequent invectives on ?hasardrye' and ?grete sweryng 631),' the Pardoner again mixes proper Biblical and classical references with possibly personal experience of the sins' vulgar realities. [...]

[...] The relationship between the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale illustrates the relationship between what we see and hear, what we know and think we know, and more specifically, the gaps within that relationship. The Pardoner offers ambiguities and uncertainties, leaves the listener or reader the responsibility of determining where truth ends and fable begins, and effaces himself from the ultimate decision of man's fate. Bibliography Primary Sources 1. Larry Benson, ed., The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd Edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987) Secondary Sources: 1. [...]

[...] To have a character declare his own practices and motives is a standard method of displaying vice in moral allegory (Cooper The Pardoner has very possibly constructed the complex relationship that exists between his Prologue and his Tale quite deliberately. Perhaps on his quest for profit, he manages to convert a few sinners, whether advertently or not, with his story of personal avarice and its relationship to his moral sermons. Chaucer provokes a discussion about tellers in his Nun's Priest's Tale, in which Chauntecleer, a farmyard cock, has a strange dream and dramatic encounter with a hungry fox. [...]

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