Chaucers: The Pardoner

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade September 2001

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The Pardoner is one of the most interesting characters in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Like many of the other characters, the depth of detail that has been given in the description of the Pardoner and his tale denotes that he is a three-dimensional character whose actions may not be as straightforward as they seem. Like many of the pilgrims, the Pardoner appears to be nothing more than a corrupt, greedy member of the church. From his prologue, he describes how his cunning sermons allow him to deceive the people and in the process make himself wealthy. He confesses that he sells false relics claiming they are real and is guilty of the very sins that he preaches against. Through his own confession of his sins in his prologue, the Pardoner inadvertently allows his audience to learn more about him. Underneath his shady exterior lies a man who is disillusioned with the institution of the church and longs for acceptance and belonging.

The Pardoner appears to be at a distinct distance from the other pilgrims for two reasons. First of all, in the General Prologue, the narrator suggested, "I trowe he were a geldying or a mare"(GP 34 691). It was his belief that he the Pardoner was either a eunuch or homosexual. His physical description of the Pardoner would certainly fit with this idea. His is described in having long, flowing hair and very feminine features. This could have serious implications as to how the other pilgrims view him both as a person and as a member of the church. It is not important to question whether or not he is a homosexual or eunuch but simply to note that if the narrator suggests that he may be, then it is quite possible that he is seen this...