Pardoner\'s Tale

The Pardoner\'s Tale: Deception and Foolishness There are several types of
foolishness being described in the Pardoner\'s Tale itself. He describes gluttony
in general, then specifically wine. He talks of gambling, taking bets and the
like, and of swearing. The exemplum of his sermon describes three fools who go
foolishly seeking death, then find it in a large amount of gold. Deception is
another topic addressed by the Pardoner: he comes right out and says that he is
a con artist, and that he is out to take people\'s money. In his tale, deception
by the rioters leads to the death of all three. These are good points, but there
is another deception the Pardoner plays, and gets caught: his sermon is a direct
chastisement of the Host, who is not pleased by this. As a whole, Chaucer
effectively uses this character of The Pardoner to point out some of the more
foolish and deceptive aspects of other characters in the Tales as well. In the
beginning, the Narrator describes The Pardoner in some quite undesirable terms.

His is the characterization that comes closest to making a judgement call - in
most cases, the judgement is left to the reader. Yet, "I trowe he were a
gelding or a mare," is hardly non-judgmental (97.693). The Narrator also
spends a bit of time describing the different relics and showing the truth of
what each relic really is; however, there is a point in his negative description
of both the physical and moral aspects of this character. The Pardoner
represents the "Ugly Truth." The Knight is grand, the Wife is pretty,
but the Pardoner is downright ugly. He is also the only pilgrim to acknowledge
his shortcomings - he knows he is a con artist and liar, and in his tale\'s
prologue freely admits this in both words and actions. The Pardoner then
proceeds with the tale itself, which is a deception as well. In the sermon, he
describes gluttony in detail, and defines it as not just overeating, but the
intense pleasure of doing so. He also denounces wine, with graphic examples of
drunkenness. He discusses the negative merits of swearing and cursing. Then, he
closes the sermon itself with a condemnation of gambling. There are several
things going on here. The first, most obvious hypocrisy is that before telling
this tale, the Pardoner insisted on stopping at an inn for food and beer. He is
also partaking in a bet - he who tells the best story wins. However, there is
another level. This sermon is retaliation to the Host, who just before asking
the Pardoner to speak has been cursing and talking about using beer as medicine
to mend his broken heart. It can be suspected that the Host is drunk, as well.

However, when addressing the Pardoner, the Host intentionally insults him:
"\'Thou bel ami, thou Pardoner,\' he saide, / \'Tel us som mirthe or japes
right anon" (165.30-31). The Pardoner, being of rather quick wit, replies:
"\'It shal be doon,\' quod he, \'by Saint Ronion...\'" (165.33). The
reference to St. Ronion is a possible play on "runnion", which is
possibly defined as a sexual joke (165, footnote 8). Thus, the Host has rather
offended the Pardoner, who calls a stop at an inn to think "upon som
honeste thing whil that I drinke" (165.40). This exchange is picked up once
again after The Pardoner\'s Tale is done. Several things from the Tale upset the

Host. He is the owner of a tavern, encouraging food and drink. He himself likes
to partake of these things. He also swears quite readily, and from the General

Prologue, we know the Host was the one to propose the storytelling game in the
first place. So, at the end of the Pardoner\'s Tale, when the Pardoner suggests
"...that our Hoste shal biginne, / For he is most envoluped in sinne"
(178.653-654), it is in direct response to the insult at the beginning of the

Pardoner\'s turn to tell a Tale. This nearly starts a physical fight - the
intervention of the Knight prevents this infighting from progressing further.

The Pardoner\'s sermon, while perhaps aimed at the Host, also describes much of
the rest of the pilgrimage. After all, they met at the tavern, agreed to this
innocent game, and some among them have been rather inebriated. Indeed, the sins
listed in the sermon do seem to apply to most of the characters. In this way, he
seems to be telling the truth in some way in regards to everyone. The Prioress
and Monk like their food, the