The Pardoner's Tale: Chaucer's Use of Irony to Criticize the Church

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA+, September 1996

download word file, 1 pages 3.7

Downloaded 85 times

Nearly every aspect of the Pardoner's tale is ironic. Irony

exists within the story itself and in the relationship between the

Pardoner and the story. The ending of the story presents a good

message despite the Pardoner's devious intentions to swindle money

from the other pilgrims. By using irony in the Pardoner's tale,

Chaucer effectively criticizes the church system.

The irony begins as soon as the Pardoner starts his prologue.

He tells the other pilgrims that his sermons reflect how money is

the root of all evils, 'radix malorum est cupiditas.' He actually

preaches against his own problems and sins. Pardoners who took

money in return for forgiveness were supposed to use the the money

for charity, but he, like many other Pardoner's in his time, used

the money for his own satisfaction. He even admits to his greed.

'And thus I preach against the very vice I make my living out of

avarice.'(p. 259) The Pardoner makes a mockery of the entire

church by fabricating stories about his phony relics. Chaucer

shows how the Church is so corrupt, that even a Pardoner who

admits to his evil ways, can still cheat the people out of their


The Pardoner begins his story by condemning the common sins

of society such as drinking and gluttony. The irony of his

criticism lies in the fact that he has been drinking himself, and

that he is an admitted glutton. There are also many ironic

elements of the stor itself. The rioters in his story, vow to set

out and slay Death. In doing so, they promise to fight and die

for each other. There are two ironies in their mission. First,

Death is hardly a being that can be killed. Second, the three

drunken fighters pledge to die for...