The Canterbury Tales

Hypocrisy in the Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale 12th Grade

Chaucer’s Pardoner is hypocritical, selfish and unreliable despite his tacit desire to preach and encourage others to pursue a life free of blasphemy, gluttony and materialism. The Pardoner appears to be highly familiar with the Bible and the authorities of the Church, and generally delivers convincing arguments against sin, but it is impossible for a reader to absorb his message without taking into consideration his audacious and hypocritical nature. Underlying this is the question of whether such an immoral character as the Pardoner is capable of telling a moral tale. This conflict of ideas is what renders the Pardoner such an intriguing character.

One element of the Pardoner’s Tale with moral value is the concept that ‘yiftes of Fortune and of Nature been cause of deeth to many a creature’. He describes three young rioters who discover a large amount of gold, which eventually results in their deaths. Therefore, the Pardoner is presented as having grounds to his argument and the story he tells does have a moral to it: selfishness and greed are vices ultimately punishable by death. ‘Radix malorum est Cupiditas’ serves as a motto of sorts, which the Pardoner quotes a number of times throughout the Tale, fortifying his lesson...

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