Canterbury Tales Essay

The Canterbury Tales, The Pardoner's Tale, Chivalry

  • Course: English III
Geoffrey Chaucer, in The Canterbury Tales, brings up important points relating to topics such as religion, behavior, and social beliefs. The Prologue and the Pardoner’s tale do this in an entertaining and humorous way. The book’s frame story is about a group of pilgrims going to worship Saint Thomas a Becket. Thus, many of the people travelling are religious and so it is expected that their tales convey important ideas about religion. At the same time, they also convey ideas about the behavior and beliefs pertinent to the time period in which the tales were written.

First, in the Prologue, the innkeeper who will serve as the judge of all the pilgrims’ tales gives his own critical analysis of each pilgrim. Some he looks upon favorably, such as the knight and the cleric. The knight embodies many chivalrous qualities. The innkeeper elaborates “had followed chivalry,/Truth, honor, generousness, and courtesy.” (124) This is one example of where Chaucer is conveying ideas about social beliefs; the text emphasizes chivalrous values. The knight is clearly being idealized in this passage, not surprisingly because of his status as a knight – such a person was very respected and looked up to. Also, most of the people described by the innkeeper are not like the knight. Many of them are corrupt, dishonest, and charlatans.

Second, in the Pardoner’s tale, the pardoner himself depicts a common phenomenon that occurred in the Church during his time period. He was a clergyperson in charge of pardoning sins, granting indulgences, and selling relics. Many pardoners, such as the one in Chaucer’s story, demanded bribes from fearful people or sold false relics. The pardoner’s character and his successes as a corrupt clergyman say much about the influence of the Church and the society. Religious beliefs played a key role in people’s lives and often defined their behaviors. People’s beliefs contributed to the pardoner’s success because the religion had in some way instilled a fear...
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