The Pardoner's Tale: Irony

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The Pardoner's Tale: Irony

By | October 1999
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The Pardoner's Tale: Irony

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 money.

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.
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