The Role of Irony in "The Pardoner's Tale"

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Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” is a collection of stories told by fictional characters who are on a journey. “The Pardoner’s Tale” is told by a pardoner traveling with the group. He pretends to be a devout man intent on the salvation of others. However, he admits outright that he is an extremely greedy man and is only in it for wealth. In the story the pardoner tells, irony is heavily used. Verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony are all used by Chaucer to enhance the message of the story as well as keep the reader interested. Chaucer uses verbal irony to reveal the extremely hypocritical nature of his characters. The best example of this can be found in the Pardoner himself. In the prologue, he states “Radix malorum est cupiditas.” This is Latin for “Avarice is the root of all evil.” There is no way the Pardoner believes this, for he is an extremely greedy man, but sees no evil in what he is doing. Therefore, this is a prime example of verbal irony. The entire message of the Pardoner’s story is the exact opposite of what he himself believes. In the story the pardoner tells, a great example of verbal irony is when one of the Rioters says “My word. I won’t betray you. I’ll be true.” This occurs mere moments after the same Rioter promised the exact same thing to the Youngest, who they are plotting to kill. Another example of Irony in the tale is when the Youngest tells the apothecary “Sell me some poison if you will, I have a lot of rats I want to kill.” He obviously does not mean rats, but his fellow Rioters. He portrays his statement as if he has to kill some bothersome pests, when he really wants to kill his brothers. Verbal irony is used in “The Pardoner’s Tale” in order to reveal the hypocritical personalities of his characters, as well as to provide some humor for the reader. Chaucer uses situational irony in order to keep the reader interested in the story. An example occurs at the very beginning of the prologue,...
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