Chaucer's View Of The Pardoner As A Character

1061 words - 4 pages

Chaucer's View of the Pardoner as a Character

In the Pardoner’s Tale, Chaucer presents the Pardoner in a particular
light, and being a religious figure, this allows him to make a general
statement about religion at the time. Chaucer’s view of the Pardoner
as a character, and also as something to epitomise religion at the
time, is evident from his use of vocabulary, his style, and by using
strong imagery and description. In this way, Chaucer builds the
character of the Pardoner as someone who is ironically deceptive and
driven by his own selfish motives.

A key theme that runs throughout the Pardoner’s Prologue is religion,
and as the Pardoner’s proper role is to act as an intercessor between
those who wish to repent and God himself, it is appropriate that
Chaucer uses a great deal of religious lexis. There are many examples
of this all through the text, such as when he mentions that the
Pardoner carries ‘Bulles of popes and cardinals’ or ‘official
documents’ signed by popes and cardinals. The plural use of the word
‘popes’ reveals a lot about the Pardoner in that it immediately shows
his disregard and contempt for the clergy. Religiously, there is only
meant to be one Pope and pluralizing the word devalues the pro-noun to
a simple noun. The lack of determiners only further degrades the Pope
as it shows no differentiation in these religious figures and others.
They are simply the same and en masse, whereas, believers of the
religion would disagree and be of the opinion that the Pope is the
highest religious authority, but the Pardoner brings him down to basic
levels and standards.

Another example of lexis related to religion is when the Pardoner says
‘I stonde lyk a clerk in my pulpet’. This simile uncovers his
hypocrisy and how he manages to deceive his audience. The use of a
simile in itself suggests that though he acts the part of a religious
dignitary, he is not this at all. He is simply ‘lyk a clerk’, but not
a real one. Therefore, he succeeds in deceiving people by appearing to
be so, but this image is only surface deep. Internally, the Pardoner
is no such holy man. In both these examples, Chaucer exposes him as
the deceitful and deceptive character that he is.

Chaucer’s style of language is also indicative of the Pardoner’s
personality and attitudes. He generally uses a mocking tone that
carries an ironic and witty sense of humour. However, it must be
remembered that this was written at a time when there was much social
restriction in what can and cannot be written, therefore the humour is
kept subtle. It is usually evident when the Pardoner himself is
speaking and so this informs the reader about his character. An
example of this is when he says ‘Al had she taken prestes two or
three’. During the previous lines, the Pardoner has professed that he
carries a cure for jealousy, though the husband may know of the wife’s
unfaithfulness and now says even if she had taken two or three priests

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