Characterization of The Pardoner

Essay by pownedjuCollege, UndergraduateA, April 2012

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Pardoner Characterization

The Pardoner is a physically deficient, boastful hypocrite that has no compassion for his fellow man and partakes in sinful vices, despite being a member of the church. A pardoner is supposed to be a holy man, one that tries to rid his fellow man of sin. However, the Pardoner is far from holy. Between his tale, and his speech to the pilgrims, it becomes clear that the Pardoner is full of nothing but greed and avarice.

In the beginning of the General Prologue, the Narrator has a tough time deciphering the gender of the Pardoner. The Narrator describes him as having thin blonde hair, and a high pitched voice. He tries to liken him to a gelding, or neutered stallion (line 693). This is important, because in the Middle Ages the outward appearance was said to mirror the soul. So, his physical ambiguity could be construed as him being an untrustworthy character.

His untrustworthiness is declared almost immediately during his prologue. He begins by speaking to the group about his past and occupation, and how he gives magnificent sermons about the dangers of greed, gluttony, and sloth. He explains how he carries around relics (indulgences, pig bones, papers signed by the pope) to sell in exchange for a pardon of people's sins. His sermon topic is always the same "Radix malorum est Cupiditas"(line 138), which translated means "greed is the root of all evil." He boasts of how he can trick a poor person out of two months rent by selling them a fake relic. This shows quite clearly that he is completely desensitized towards his fellow man.

His untrustworthiness also exemplifies the fact that he is an extreme hypocrite. He tells of how he preaches sermons about the sins of greed, and how he...