The pardoners prologue Essay
Pardoner’s greed is emphasised throughout the whole prologue and tale –> his sermons revolve around the latin biblical phrase ‘radix malorum est cupiditas’ (greed is the root of all evil) yet openly admits to preaching for ‘nothyng but for coveityse’ – portrays him as a hypocritical character as he is not putting what he preaches into practice.During medieval times, religion was a way of life – life after death/salvation was more important than life on earth and therefore repenting sins was a way to ensure you went to heaven – pardoner is playing on his audience’s weakness/fear for his benefit – shows him as immoral and weak.
–> openly admits that he ‘rekke nevere/than whan they have been beryed, though that hir soules goon-a-blackberyed! ‘ – negative imagery proves his lack of compassion Openly admits he is guilty of avarice (which was one of the 7 deadly sins – ironic and hypocritical seeing as he’s a preacher and preaches ABOUT gluttony?)”I preche of no thyng but for coveityse” (x2) “myn entente is nat but for to wynn and /no thyng for the correcicioun of synne’General prologue description of him ‘I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare’ –> referred to as a eunuch (castrated man) – this combined with the description of him riding with the summoner who ‘bar to hym a stif bourdon’ carries the connotations of a weak and possibly homosexual man?riticism: pardoner is ‘parasite of parasites’ and ‘merely a vehicle for the substantial embodiment of the church’s abusement’ –> pardoner is a 2D character constructed to highlight the medieval church as greedy, weak and hypocritical.
Greed, weakness and hypocrisy are all key attributes to the pardoner’s prologue and tale. In the medieval times, greed, a form of gluttony, was one the seven deadly sins and would ultimately lead to a lifetime in Hell. Religion was extremely prominent during the medieval period and was infiltrated into every aspect of life.Therefore, it was easy for corrupt churchmen, such as the Pardoner, to play on the weaknesses and fear of the pilgrims to feed their own greed. The prologue and the tale that the Pardoner tells highlights his lack of redeeming virtues, as well as the characters’ in the exemplum novelle he narrates. Although it can be argued that his tale does present some characters to have positive qualities, such as the old man, they are constructed in such a way to stress the lack of redeeming qualities of the other characters.This essay will consider the lack of redeeming qualities in human nature, and will dispute this with the characters who do seem to possess positive virtues.
The pardoner’s boastful tone in the prologue seems to suggest that he takes pride in his lack of redeeming virtues as it ultimately fuels his comfortable lifestyle. His greed is established from the onset as the general prologue informs the reader that the pardoner tricks pilgrims into buying relics they believe are ‘the sayle that saint peter hadde’ or ‘our lady veyl’ when in reality, they are merely nothing more than ‘pigges bones’.Thus, the pardoner is portrayed as greedy from the beginning, and this is continually emphasised throughout the prologue and tale. His sermons are constructed around the Latin biblical phrase ‘radix malorum est cupiditas’ which translated, means ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’. This depicts the pardoner as massively ironic as well as hypocritical, as he openly admits to preaching for ‘nothing but for coveityse’; a phrase repeated twice in the prologue to accentuate his greed and is reinforced by ‘for myn entente is nat but for to wynne and no thyng for the correcioun of synne’.Chaucer has represented human nature to lack any redeeming virtues through the pardoner, as he does not put into practice what he so regularly preaches to pilgrims. As previously mentioned, religion was fundamental in medieval lifestyle, and ensuring the route to salvation seemed more important than life on Earth. To ensure salvation, it was crucial to repent for any sins that you may be guilty of. In this sense, the pardoner can be seen as lacking any redeeming virtues as he uses this to bribe money out of innocent pilgrims.Chaucher uses distressing imagery to emphasise the depths of the pardoner’s greed, stating that he will ‘noon of the apostles countrefete’ and will even take money from the ‘povereste wydwe in village’ to fund his lavish lifestyle. In addition to this, he candidly states that he ‘rekke never’ of the pilgrims once they have died, for his only interest is taking their money and not their eternal souls, in which he admits ‘whan that they are beryed, hir soules goon-a-blackberyed!’. This further illustrates his lack of compassion and his greedy, hypocritical character, corresponding with the statement that human nature lack any redeeming virtues and are greedy, weak and hypocritical. The pardoner openly admits throughout the prologue and tale that he is guilty of avarice: one of the seven deadly sins. This is massively ironic on many levels as firstly, he is a member of the church and therefore should be learned in all sins, knowing not to commit any.Secondly, he preaches about this very sin to his congregation whilst committing it himself on a daily basis through the sale of fake relics. Critics, such as Linda Georgianna, have argued that the pardoner is ‘merely a substantial vehicle for the embodiment of the church’s abusement’, drawing parallels with other critics, who argue that the pardoner is the ‘parasite of all parasites’; Chaucer may have constructed the pardoner as a veiled criticism of the medieval church, highlighting the corrupt nature of its workings and the papacy as greedy, weak and hypocritical.This view can be supported by the description of the pardoner in the general prologue. Spearing notes that the pardoner’s repellent outer appearance reflects his inner corruption. He is referenced to a eunuch, being described as a ‘geldyng or a mare’ – carrying connotations of a possible homosexual relationship with the summoner whom he rode with, who ‘bar to hym a stiff burdoun’.This idea of homosexuality can be construed as a criticism of the church as homosexuality was forbidden in medieval times, therefore to let members of the church be homosexual shows the lack of interest, or carelessness, to who they allow to do God’s work. The three rioters are perceived as sinful from the onset as they are described as being in a tavern drinking and blaspheming – immediately guilty of committing two of the seven deadly sins. They can be described as a walking embodiment of sin, as they are not named and therefore are not given specific identities.They encompass the theme of hypocrisy as they stress their united brotherhood by incessantly regarding one another as ‘bretheren’ who are out to find and kill the ‘false traytour death’; ironic as later on they will become false traitors themselves, plotting against and killing each other due to their greed. The novelle in which the pardoner uses in his sermon to illustrate how sinning ultimately leads to death portrays human nature to lack any redeeming virtues and illustrates people as being greedy, weak and hypocritical.Despite the majority of the prologue proving that human nature lacks any redeeming virtues through the construction of the pardoner and the three rioters, it can be argued that there are particular elements in both the prologue and tale to contradict this statement. The old man in the novelle of the three rioters that the pardoner tells is used to signify the positive and holy element of the tale. This is shown through the direct contrast between him and the three rioters, who can be presented as the anti-trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.When the old man speaks to the rioters, he explains how he wishes to die, calling it a ‘grace’ – a distinct contrast between the men who call death a ‘traytour’, and how he has walked the Earth for many years as a ‘resteless kaityf’ waiting for Mother Nature to take him. This could suggest that he has been true to his religion throughout his life, never committing sins and therefore has not been punished by death at an early age, unlike the rioters who revel in sin and are killed relatively quickly.The contrast between the old man wanting to die, and the three young men looking to kill death, can suggest the difference in wisdom; the old man knows that his route to salvation is clear and is not afraid to pass over into Heaven, whereas the three young men who regularly sin are looking to kill death themselves to avoid going to Hell, instead of repenting for their sins. This suggests an underlying weakness of the three rioters. Although the old man may be seen as wanting to find Death, some critics argue that the old man is actually the personification of death, and therefore cannot die.Instead, he is constructed to give the three rioters the option to find death up the ‘croked way’, in which they will find ‘eighte bushels’ of ‘floryns fyn of gold’, give into their weaknesses, leading to death and portraying human nature to lack any redeeming virtues. Therefore, it is sufficient to say that the pardoner’s prologue and tale does indeed show human nature to lack redeeming virtues, and that greed, weakness and hypocrisy are clearly illustrated through the construction of the characters.