The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Pardoner's Tale Analysis

The Pardoner’s Tale has been the subject of much recent critical analysis because, in some ways, it sums up the entire Canterbury Tales. It features a tale-teller whose voice is completely at odds with the story he tells, and it provides an opportunity for the writer (Chaucer) to lecture at length on a particular topic without ever revealing what his opinion of it actually is.

The Pardoner freely admits that, while his business is preaching and absolving other people of their sins, he is a sinful person himself, and the sin he commits most often is avarice, or greed. Yet his Tale roundly preaches against greed, arguing that it is the root of all evil. Many critics have asked whether, if the Pardoner is so greedy himself, he can actually tell a tale with a sound moral against greed. By telling this tale through a character at a distance, Chaucer can comment both on the conventional morality against greed and the practice of greed without ever indicating what he himself actually thinks of either.

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