Nearly every aspect of the Pardoner's tale is ironic. Irony exists within
the story itself and in the relationship between the Pardoner and the story.
The ending of the story presents a good message despite the Pardoner's devious
intentions to swindle money from the other pilgrims. By using irony in the
Pardoner's tale, Chaucer effectively criticizes the church system.
The irony begins as soon as the Pardoner starts his prologue. He tells the
other pilgrims that his sermons reflect how money is the root of all evils,
"radix malorum est cupiditas." He actually preaches against his own problems
and sins. Pardoners who took money in return for forgiveness were supposed to
use the the money for charity, but he, like many other Pardoner's in his time,
used the money for his own satisfaction. He even admits to his greed. "And
thus I preach against the very vice I make my living out of avarice."(p. 259)
The Pardoner makes a mockery of the entire church by fabricating stories about
his phony relics. Chaucer shows how the Church is so corrupt, that even a
Pardoner who admits to his evil ways, can still cheat the people out of their
The Pardoner begins his story by condemning the common sins of society
such as drinking and gluttony. The irony of his criticism lies in the fact
that he has been drinking himself, and that he is an admitted glutton. There
are also many ironic elements of the stor itself. The rioters in his story,
vow to set out and slay Death. In doing so, they promise to fight and die for
each other. There are two ironies in their mission. First, Death is hardly a
being that can be killed. Second, the three drunken fighters pledge to die for
each other, but in reality they kill each other. [continues]
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