Written in the fourteenth century by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales bursts its way into the literary world, and quickly made its mark as one of the early English masterpieces. Its poetic verses often disguised the disdain that Chaucer possessed for the hypocritical behaviors that were (and in many ways still are) present with the religious leaders. Throughout this lyrical writing, Chaucer tackles the opulent monk, the corrupt friar, and the flirtatious nun. However, the Pardoner is one of Geoffrey Chaucer's more difficult characters to understand. Chaucer did not place much faith in the monastic church that was so prevalent during his time, and it is quite prevalent in the character of the Pardoner; a man that did not practice what he preached, abused his power, and delighted in the love of money.
Despite preaching against greed, corruption, gluttony, and covetousness, the Pardoner in The Canterbury Tales possessed the very qualities that he spoke against. Even though this “forgiver of sin” preached that money and possessions were not the way to heaven, the reader finds out early in Chaucer's general prologue that the Pardoner is, none-the-less, obsessed about his possessions. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer states “For in his wallet, he kept it safety stowed”. (Chaucer) The properties that this Pardoner cared the most for, he kept them tucked away, neatly in his wallet. His sole thought was to keep his possessions protected from the outside world. Dr. Walter Clyde Curry, a former English professor at Vanderbilt University, wrote in The Journal of English and Germanic Philology,
That [the Pardoner] is an abandoned rascal delighting in hypocrisy and possessed of a colossal impudence...after hearing his shameless confession and witnessing his attempt to hypnotize the Host; that he is a glutton and a typical tavern reveler is revealed by the fact that he calls for cakes and ale before he can properly relate a moral tale. (Curry)
This small detail of the Pardoner desiring cake and ale is a significant clue that, despite his outwardly appearance of caring for the sinful, his first concerns are only for himself.
One of the more unsympathetic characters in Chaucer's tales is the Pardoner, who boldly opposed in his sermons the sins of corruption, greed, and abuse of power, was everything that he preached against. The Pardoner in The Canterbury Tales, is corrupt, and he revels in his corruption every day. For a price, the Pardoner would travel to a house, town, city or dwelling place...