In the “General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer explores what happens when spiritual goods begin to be profit-earning commodities, and question the effect of this trade upon the individual who practices it. The Pardoner that Chaucer writes about, is seen as a feminine con-artist who went against the typical perception of individuals associated with the church. A Pardoner is someone who was supposed to travel, selling official church pardons like pieces of paper with a bishop's signature on them or relics, entitling the bearer to forgiveness for their sins. They used the money raised for the maintenance of hospitals, the buildings of churches, repairing bridges and other causes. The Pardoner's portrait in “The General Proulouge” throws into question not only the character himself, but also the practices upon which he relies to make a living. In “The General Prologue”, Chaucer subtly suggests the ambiguous nature of the Pardoner.
The Pardoner in “The General Prologue” had a non-traditional appearance. Typically, Pardoners were not allowed to have long hair due to its feminine implications. Pardoners usually were bald and their head was covered by a hood. The atypical head dressing of Chaucer’s Pardoner is an understated view of the Pardoner’s alleged amigous nature. The Pardoner;s rebellious dressing with the, “heer as yelow as wex,/But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;/By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde”, indicated the Pardoner’s rebellion against the Church. The Pardoner has no intentions of wearing his hood with Chaucer the author stating, “But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon,/For it was trussed up in his wallet,” indicating that the hood is stuffed firmly away. The atypical dressing indicates the vanity of the Pardoner. The physical description of the Pardoner is a mild indication of the vanity and attention to personal appearance should have no role in the life of an individual associated with the church.
Chaucer subtly suggests the ambiguity of the Pardoner’s sexuality. The Pardoner is introduces as riding along with the Summoner, another corrupt individual associated with the Church. The two are heard singing “com hider, love, to me!” The homosexual relationship is subtly suggested by Chaucer the author the Pardoner’s harmonizing with the Summoner’s “stif burdoun,” musical bass that is symbolic of the genetilia of men. The relationship between the two is not made explicit but is easily inferred as the Pardoner is seen as feminine. Lusty
Chaucer the Narrator later suggests the Pardoner had been enunched. The narrator indicates that the Pardoner had “A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot.” The high pitched voice is typically seen as a female characteristic. Chaucer the Narrator further indicates the Pardoner’s femine nature by stating, “No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have;/As smothe it was as it were late shave.” Beardlessness was also an indication of enunchry. His enunched appearance symbolized by...