Irony in the Canterbury Tales by

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Irony is the general name given to literary techniques that involve

surprising, interesting,or amusing contradictions. 1 Two stories that

serve as excellent demonstrations of irony are "The Pardoners Tale" and

"The Nun's Priest's Tale," both from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

Although these two stories are very different, they both use irony to teach

a lesson.

Of the stories, "The Pardoners Tale" displays the most irony. First

and foremost, the entire telling of the story is ironic, considering just

who is the teller. The Pardoner uses this story to speak out against many

social problems, all of which he himself is guilty of. He preaches about

drunkenness, while he is drunk, blasphemy, as he attempts to sell fake

religious relics, and greed, when he himself is amazingly greedy. Yet

there are also many ironic situations in the story itself. The irony starts

when, in the begining of the story, the three rioters make a pact to "be

brothers" and "each defend the others" and "to live and die for one

another" in protection from Death, (lines 37-43) and then in going out to

fulfill their vow, they end up finding money, and killing each other over it.

Even more ironic, is how they end up killing each other. After finding the

money, the men plan to stay with it until it becomes dark and they can

safely take it away. To tide themselves over until then, they send the youngest one out to get food and wine, and while he is away they plan to

kill for his share of the money. Ironically, the youngest one is planning

the same thing so he slips poison into the drinks of his companions. When

he returns, he is attacked and stabbed to death by the other men...