Q:

What is "The Pardoner's Tale" about?

A:

Quick Answer

"The Pardoner's Tale" from Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" tells a moral tale against the sins of gluttony, blaspheming, drinking and gambling in which three young men die because of their greed. The Pardoner's overriding theme is that greed is the root of all evil.

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Full Answer

"The Pardoner's Tale" opens with three gluttonous, crass men hearing a bell that signifies the death of one of their friends, who they learn has been killed by a fiend named Death. The three men set out to avenge the friend by killing Death. On their mission to find Death, the men encounter an old man who tells them that they can find Death at the foot of a nearby oak tree. Instead of finding Death, though, they find piles of gold coins. The men quickly forget about their mission, and they rejoice at their good fortune.

The trio decide to return home with the gold under the cover of night. One of the men leaves to fetch some wine and food. While their friend is away, the other two men plot to kill the wine-fetching friend in order to have a larger share of the gold. The man who went to get the wine and food has a similar thought in mind. He poisons the wine, intending to kill his friends and take all of the gold for himself. When he returns to the tree, his comrades stab and kill him. They proceed to consume the poisoned wine, and they die slow, painful deaths.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are the moral lessons in the "Pardoner's Tale"?

    A:

    The overt moral lesson in "The Pardoner's Tale" is that greed is the root of all evil, as it is explicitly stated by the pardoner. In addition, gluttony, drunkeness, gambling and swearing are each discussed in the "Prologue to the Pardoner's Tale" as moral vices to be avoided.

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  • Q:

    Who was the Sergeant at Law in "The Canterbury Tales"?

    A:

    The Sergeant at Law, also known as the Man of Law, is the narrator of the fifth tale of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales." The Sergeant at Law is a medieval lawyer and judge described as being thorough in that no errors can be found in his legal writings.

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  • Q:

    What is the central irony in "The Pardoner's Tale?"

    A:

    The central irony of “The Pardoner’s Tale” is that the three young men who set out to kill Death end up killing one another out of greed. Both noble and vainglorious, their failed quest proves that those who seek death find it, often quickly.

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  • Q:

    What is Chaucer satirizing in "The Pardoner's Tale?"

    A:

    In "The Pardoner's Tale," Geoffrey Chaucer is satirizing the traveling member of the clergy who is selling "Get Out of Hell Free" cards, which is another way of defining the indulgences that they had for sale. In the story, the pardoner is in a group heading to the shrine at Canterbury, but he also admits readily to cheating beggars out of their money. This story satirizes the work that the clergy did at that time, selling forgiveness to the highest bidder instead of requiring repentance.

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