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Published: 22-12-2019

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Hypocrisy in the Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale

Chaucer’s Pardoner is hypocritical, selfish and unreliable regardless of his tacit wish to preach and encourage other people to pursue a life free of blasphemy, gluttony and materialism. The Pardoner seems to be highly familiar with the Bible and the authorities of the Church, and normally delivers convincing arguments against sin, but it is not possible for a reader to absorb his message with out taking into consideration his audacious and hypocritical nature. Underlying this is the query of whether such an immoral character as the Pardoner is capable of telling a moral tale. This conflict of tips is what renders the Pardoner such an intriguing character.

One particular element of the Pardoner’s Tale with moral value is the idea that ‘yiftes of Fortune and of Nature been cause of deeth to numerous a creature’. He describes three young rioters who find out a large amount of gold, which sooner or later results in their deaths. For that reason, the Pardoner is presented as getting grounds to his argument and the story he tells does have a moral to it: selfishness and greed are vices eventually punishable by death. ‘Radix malorum est Cupiditas’ serves as a motto of sorts, which the Pardoner quotes a quantity of instances throughout the Tale, fortifying his lesson with the starkly negative and frightening words: ‘death’ and ‘Cupiditas’. The major issue right here, even so, is that the Pardoner himself is selfish and is extremely a lot characterised throughout the Prologue and Tale as becoming obsessed with money and avarice. This obsession has led to his spiritual death, which he seems not to have realised.

In a equivalent light, the Pardoner openly admits to fooling people and generating a living at the expense of others. He quite casually declares to his accompanying pilgrims: ‘from this gaude have I wonne, year by year’. This depicts the Pardoner as a manipulative character who seizes any money-generating opportunity. Chaucer’s adverbial phrase ‘year by year’ suggests a proud relishing on the Pardoner’s portion, as though he gets as a lot pleasure from duping the men and women to whom he preaches as from earning the income itself. That he calls these folks ‘lewed’ reveals his contempt for his uneducated, simple congregations. He also admits to preying on the vulnerable, for instance ‘the excellent-man that the beestes oweth’: he selects the na?ve, unsophisticated citizens of rural, pastoral communities. Both the adjective ‘lewed’ and the noun ‘gaude’ inhabit a damaging semantic field, with which the Pardoner feels very comfortable to align himself, thus implying an open, possibly ‘savage’, immorality.

On the other hand, the Pardoner instructs his audience against ‘dronkenesse’ in a structured, coherent argument, which gives his lesson a genuine, moral high quality. He explains that ‘a lecherous issue is wyn’, warning that alcohol leads to ‘wrecchednesse’. The assonantal rhyme of ‘lecherous’ with ‘wrecchedness’ echoes the Pardoner’s apparent feeling of disgust for these who resort to drinking alcohol. To strengthen his diatribe against it, he lists the adverse effects of alcohol on its shoppers: ‘sour is thy breath’, ‘foul artow to embrace’. The adjectives ‘sour’ and ‘foul’, coupled with the informal pronominal choice ‘thy’, serve to attack drunkards for their behaviour and, as a result, add a moral good quality to the Pardoner’s sermon. This is further enhanced by his utterance ‘dronkenesse is verray sepulture’, which frightens his audience with the danger of losing its reputation, thoughts and sense of explanation. His preaching against alcohol is summed-up by his belief that ‘soverein actes…of victories in the Olde Testament…were doon in abstinence and in preyere’: all good deeds in the Bible have been accomplished by sober gentlemen, encouraging his audience to pursue a pure, wholesome way of life. His persuasive finish to this section, ‘ye may possibly it leere’, invites his listeners to reflect upon the dangers of alcohol and knowledge for themselves the benefits of living without having it.

In spite of this, Chaucer characterises the Pardoner as becoming preoccupied by alcohol, which suggests an unreliable high quality. Ahead of telling his tale, the Pardoner explains that he ‘wol…drinke’, implying that he somewhat relies on alcohol as a signifies of controlling himself and his thoughts therefore the rhyme of ‘thinke’ with ‘drinke’, which depicts the Pardoner as untrustworthy and, as the reader discovers all through the Prologue and Tale, inconsistent. This preoccupation with alcohol is also emphasised by the rhyme of ‘clinke’ and ‘drinke’: all of these sounds echo his fondness of alcohol and so reveal his hypocritical streak for preaching against anything in which he regularly partakes. He even compares ‘a draughte of moiste and corny ale’ to a ‘triacle’, suggesting that alcohol in some way remedies him. His detailed understanding of ‘the white wyn of Lepe’ and ‘Spaigne’ further illustrates his fancy for liquor, which presents him as even a lot more inconsistent with his teachings against it.

In the Prologue to the Tale, when the Pardoner is about to start his narrative, Chaucer establishes a contrast amongst ‘gentils’ and ‘ribaudye’. The Pardoner is instantly distanced morally from the other pilgrims, who, from experience, uncover him prone to talking of crude, filthy matters. Even so, they do invite him to inform them a moral tale, which ‘wol we gladly here’. This founds the underlying debate of regardless of whether a character such as the Pardoner is capable to tell a moral tale. He contradicts himself by encouraging his congregation towards the very sin against which he preaches he details the rewards that his listeners will encounter for getting pardons and relics from him. The descriptions of ‘stoor shal multiplie’ and ‘shal have multiplying of his grain’ concentrate purely on material acquire, rather than spiritual, which is precisely what the Pardoner attacks his congregation for. This highlights his inconsistent, hypocritical nature, which suggests all round that he cannot successfully tell a moral tale, regardless of his claim that ‘for even though myself be a ful vicious man, a moral tale however I you telle kan’.
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