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Essay On Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Evil Exposed In The Pardoner's Tale

1211 words - 5 pages

The Root of Evil Exposed in The Pardoner's Tale

"The root of all evil is money."  Because this phrase has been

repeated so many times throughout history, one can fail to realize the

truth in this timeless statement.  Whether applied to the corrupt clergy of

Geoffrey Chaucer's time, selling indulgences, or the corrupt televangelists

of today, auctioning off salvation to those who can afford it, this truth

never seems to lose its validity.  In Chaucer's famous work The Canterbury

Tales, he points out many inherent flaws of human nature, all of which

still apply today.  Many things have changed since the fourteenth century,

but humanity's ability to act foolish is not one of them.  Perhaps the best

example of this is illustrated in "The Pardoner's Tale."  His account of

three rioters who set out to conquer Death and instead deliver it upon each

other, as well as the prologue which precedes the tale, reveal the

truthfulness of the aforementioned statement as it applies to humanity in

general and the Pardoner himself.


      Before he even begins his tale, the Pardoner delivers a sort of

disclaimer, informing the pilgrims of his practices within the church.


        The Pardoner was an expert at exploiting parishioners' guilt for

his financial gain.  He sold them various "relics" that supposedly cured

ailments ranging from sick cattle to jealousy.  And if the relics didn't

seem to work, it was obviously because of the sinful man or woman who

purchased them, and no fault of the Pardoner.  He had a few lines he would

routinely say to his potential customers;


                "Good men and women, here's a word of of warning:

                If there is anyone in the church this morning

                Guilty of sin, so far beyond expression

                Horrible, that he dare not make confession,

                Or any woman, whether young or old,

                That's cuckolded her husband, be she told

                That such as she shall have no power or grace

                To offer to my relics in this place."


And this practice proved quite successful for the Pardoner, as he later

states, proclaiming, "That trick's been worth a hundred marks a year".  By

extolling his ability to profit from deception and fear, the Pardoner

offers himself as a clear example of the phrase he himself was fond of

quoting, Radix malorum est cupiditas, or "The root of evil is money".  He

then proceeds to prove his point with his tale of three rioters and their

search for Death.


      "The Pardoner's Tale" is an exemplum, or a story that teaches a

lesson.  In telling his story, the Pardoner sets out to prove the

truthfulness of his statement of money being the root of evil.  The story

definitely accomplishes this, as does the Pardoner's account of his...

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