How is "The Pardoner's Tale" an exemplum?


Quick Answer

"The Pardoner's Tale" is an exemplum in that it reveals what greed is capable of doing, even to close friends; the danger of the love of money; and the deceptiveness of death. The Pardoner who tells the tale is himself guilty of much of what he relates in the story, preaching more for money than for instruction and known to indulge in too much alcohol.

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Full Answer

"The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer is an unfinished collection of tales told by various participants on a pilgrimage. The Pardoner sold pardons for a living, more interested in money than in souls. He tells the tale of three young men who were totally given to living a drunken and completely sinful existence. Upon learning that a friend had been taken by Death, they set out to find Death and kill him. When directed to the place where Death was last seen, they found a fortune in gold. Despite their history of being close as brothers, each one immediately began to plot how to get rid of the other two to have the fortune to himself. One by one, each falls dead, prey to the plans of a friend. The Pardoner hypocritically warns his listeners at the end of his story about the dangers of greed. Meant to be a moral tale, the story falls short due to the character of its narrator. Nevertheless, the point that Death is often disguised as something pleasant still rings true.

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