The Pardoners Tale Deception and Foolishness Essay

This essay has a total of 1302 words and 5 pages.

The Pardoners Tale Deception and Foolishness



Barrett
Great Books 1
Dr. Carcache
11 December 2000

The Pardoner's Tale: Deception and Foolishness
There are several types of foolishness being described in the Pardoner's Tale itself. He
describes gluttony in general, then specifically wine. He talks of gambling, taking bets
and the like, and of swearing. The beginning of his tale describes three fools who go
foolishly seeking death, then find it in a large amount of gold. Deception is another
topic addressed by the Pardoner. He comes right out and says he is a con artist, and that
he is out to take people's money. In his tale, deception by the rioters leads to the
death of all three. These are good points, but there is another deception the Pardoner
plays, and gets caught. His tale is a direct chastisement of the host, Harry Bailey, who
is not pleased by this. As a whole, Chaucer effectively uses this character of the
Pardoner to point out some of the more foolish and deceptive aspects of other characters
in the tales as well.

In the beginning, the narrator describes the Pardoner in some quite undesirable terms.
The Pardoner represents the "ugly truth." The Knight is grand, the Wife is pretty, but
the Pardoner is downright ugly. He is also the only pilgrim to acknowledge his
shortcomings. He knows he is a con artist and a liar, and in his tale's prologue he
freely admits this in both words and actions. The Pardoner then proceeds with the tale
itself, which is a deception as well. In his tale he describes gluttony in detail and
defines it as not just overeating, but the intense pleasure of doing so. He also
denounces wine with graphic examples of drunkenness. He discusses the negative merits of
swearing and cursing. Then, he closes the tale itself with a condemnation of gambling.

There are several things going on here. The first, and most obvious hypocrisy is before
telling this tale, the Pardoner insisted on stopping at an inn for food and beer. He is
also a participant in a bet: he who tells the best story wins. However, there is another
level. This tale is a retaliation against the host, who just before asking the Pardoner
to speak had been cursing and talking about using beer as medicine to mend his broken
heart. It can be suspected that the host is drunk, as well. Several things from the tale
upset the host. He is the owner of a tavern, encouraging food and drink. He himself
likes to partake of these things. He also swears often, and from the General Prologue, we
know the host was the one to propose the storytelling game in the first place. So, at the
end of the Pardoner's Tale, when the Pardoner suggests, "…our Host shall begin, for he’s
the man enveloped most by sin" (1585.457-458), it is in direct response to the insult the
host made at the beginning of the Pardoner’s tale. This nearly starts a physical fight,
but the Knight steps in to stop any further confrontation. The Pardoner's tale may have
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