Irony in The Pardoners Tale and The Nun's Priest's Tale
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
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 Then, in probably the most ironic action in the whole story, the
murderers, to congratulate themselves, drink from the poisoned cup and die.
"The Nun's Priest's Tale" is also laden with irony, the most
obvious of which is the characters themselves. The story begins by
telling of an old woman who owns several farm animals, but while the woman
is described as "a poor old widow," who "led a patient, simple life," (1
&6) while the animals are described as royalty. For example, the animals
had regal names and titles, yet the woman had none at all. The first
concrete example of irony, occurs...