NOT a Retraction
I have chosen to read "The Pardoner's Tale," from The Canterbury Tales (294-392), by Geoffrey Chaucer. In the following, I will discuss the tale and give you my opinion on why I think Chaucer did not intend to retract this particular tale.
"The Pardoner's Tale," is a tale about sin and what one must do to be forgiven for those sins. "The Pardoner's Tale," is a story about gluttony, false oaths and swearing, and avarice. The pardoner who tells the tale is guilty of all of these sins and openly admits this in the prologue to the tale.
... By this gaude have I wonne, yeer by yeer, / An hundred mark sith
I was pardoner. / I stonde lik a clerk in my pulpet, / And whan the
lewed peple is down yset, / I preche so as ye han herd bifore/ And
Telle an hundred false japes more.
This tale is about a company of men who "haunteden folye" (l 176). The three men are told of a person who is sweeping the country side and claiming the lives of thousands (l 391) of people, so they swear , "many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn," (l 420) and decide to take the task upon themselves to go out and kill this thing, "Death." Along their way, they run into an old man covered in rags.
... Ye, for an haire-clout to wrappe me. /
But yit to me she wol nat do that grace,/
For which ful pale and welked is my face. ...
This old man tells them that they can find "Death" waiting for them beneath a tree and warns them to be careful. The three men run as fast as they can to the tree...