The Pardoner’s Greed
The pardoner, in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale, is a devious character. He is a man with a great knowledge of the Catholic Church and a great love of God. However, despite the fact that he is someone whom is looked at with respect at the time, the pardoner is nothing more than an imposter who makes his living by fooling people into thinking he forgives their sins, and in exchange for pardons, he takes their money. His sermon-like stories and false relics fool the people of the towns he visits and make him seem as a plausible man, which is exactly what the pardoner wants. In fact, the pardoner is an avaricious and deceitful character whose driving force in life is his motto, “Radix malorum est cupiditas,” which is Latin for “greed is the root of evil.” The pardoner’s entire practice is based upon his motto and is motivated entirely by greed.
The pardoner is supposed to forgive sins, however, he views his position as a scheme to make money and turns it into a fraud. His excellent speaking skills allow him to turn this profession into a scam. He attracts the people with his storytelling and his sermons, which are pleasing to them, “By God, I hope I shal yow telle a thyng / That shal by reson been at youre liking,” (457-58). One example of a sermon about his motto is the tale of the three rioters. This tale gives an ironic explanation related to the rioters deaths, due to greed and the pardoners practice of his profession, which is also driven by greed (Rossignol, 267). He tells the people what they would like to hear, so that he may pull them into his trap and later cheat them out of their money. His technique to fooling people is to preach on the subject of “Radix malorum est cupiditas”. Since his living depends on the people’s response to the sermon, the pardoner must make it both convincing and entertaining: “Thanne telle I hem ensamples many oon / Of olde stories longe tyme agoon / For lewed peple loven tales olde; / Swiches thynges kan they wel reporte and holde,” (435-38). When the pardoner is through with his tale, he does not forget to remind the congregation about making their offering to him, so that they may protect themselves from avarice and against sin. The pardoner shows no sign of sympathy or remorse towards his acts upon those whom he cheats. This is one of the many greedy tricks that the pardoner performs to fool and steal from the people.
Besides being a great storyteller and speaker, the pardoner is also a wonderful actor, complete with convincing props to deceive the congregation with. He preaches and tells the people about the power of his relics, which in fact are fakes. Many of his relics were actually the bones of dead animals, such as pigs, which he claimed to be the bones of dead saints, and gloves, which, he claimed, would help crops grow if worn when planting them (Pichaske, 131). The pardoner claims that his relics have the power to forgive sinners of...