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Free Study Guide-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free BookNotes
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THE TALES: SUMMARIES AND NOTES

The Pardonerís Tale

Words of the Host to the Physician and the Pardoner

The Host was overcome by the Physicianís distressing tale involving a lying rascal and a crooked judge. He laments that the girlís incredible beauty was the cause of her miserable end. He tells the Physician in a medical language that he almost had a heart attack by this sorrowful tale and demands a really cheerful tale from the Pardoner. The Pardoner agreed to do so after having a refreshing drink at the alehouse nearby. However the genteel folk of the company fearful that the Pardoner would tell a filthy tale, demanded a moralistic tale. The Pardoner agrees.

The Pardonerís Tale: Prologue

Summary

In the Prologue the Pardoner explains the methods that he employs in his sermons. He always starts with the text "Radix malorum est cupiditas" i.e. "Love of money is the root of all evil". He then shows his official certificates; his license, and adds spice and color to his sermon by saying a few words in Latin. This also serves to inspire devotion among the people. He next displays his fake relics such as the shoulder bone of Jacobís sheep that could cure sick cattle and also cure jealousy in men. He also shows his mitten that would bring prosperity to its owner once he parts with money to buy it. The Pardoner then warns the people that he will not sell his relics to sinners and only good people can be absolved by making an offering to him. He admits that this is the way in which he has earned a100 marks in a year. He says that he preaches from a pulpit like a priest only against avarice and thus induces people to give cash freely to him. He bluntly admits that profit is his only motive and he doesnít care a straw about rebuking sinners. He candidly acknowledges that while he preaches against all kinds of sin, he himself indulges in various vices and begs from the poor to make a fine living. He knows that while he himself is guilty, he knows how to preach against avarice and make people repent. The Pardoner says that although he is a vicious fellow he can tell a tale with a moral and bids the pilgrims to listen.


Notes

The Prologue shows that the Pardoner is fully conscious of his own immorality. He frankly confesses that while he preaches against all kinds of sins, he himself indulges in various vices. In short his actions do not accord with his words.

The Pardoner attempts to gain the sympathy of his audience through his Prologue by revealing the tricks of his trade and acknowledging his own villainy.

It must be said that the Pardonerís confession never loses interest. It is evident that the Pardoner derives immense pleasure from his role as a preacher. He is proud of his oratory skills whereby he can hold an entire congregation under his sway and extract money from them. He describes his method of preaching to demonstrate its power - how he speaks loudly, shows his certificates and speaks a little Latin to impress the congregation. He readily confesses that the text in his preaching is always ĎRadix malorum estí. He always preaches against avarice only to satisfy his own avarice. He then shows the assembled people his spurious relics. The Pardoner is amused at the thought that his sermons unintentionally inspire devotion in people.

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