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Canterbury Tales

By clydendale Feb 13, 2013 686 Words
In The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, A band of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury take turns telling stories. The main characters of each pilgrim’s tale face their reckoning and whether they are punished or absolved; their judgment is specific to the pilgrim who told the tale. The Knight from the Wife of Bath’s tale is judged and forgiven when and the three men from the Pardoner’s tale meet their end when they let greed, what the Pardoner calls the root of evil, impair their judgment. The Knight’s judgment relates to the Wife of Bath mainly because the story she told depicted that when women took control, or had “sovereignty”, both husband and wife would live in harmony. In her story the Wife of Bath described how Queen Guinevere and her court of female saved the knight from death but only if he could find out what women desire most. The Knight searched to no avail, and finally stumbled upon an old hag. The wise hag gave the knight the right answer also claimed the right to have him as a husband. She reasoned with the knight about the advantages of having an old and ugly wife rather than a young and beautiful one. The hag convinced the knights that men made themselves noble through their deeds, not through inheritance. Though she was poor, the old lady pointed out that even God chose to live in poverty: “The hye God, on whom that we belive, in willful poverte chees to live his lyf” (lines 1184 – 1185). The Knight is saved when the old hag reveals what women what most is to be charge of their husbands. Later, the knight allowed the old women to take charge and he is rewarded when she transforms into a beautiful figure. The Wife if Bath’s Tale showed that when the wife had the upper hand in their marriage, they would be rewarded with a long and happy life together. Furthermore the Knight is not only saved but also rewarded when he became the kind of man who allowed his wife some control in the marriage. The judgment of the three men in the Pardoner’s tale was appropriate to the Pardoner because their reckoning is conceived by greed. To the Pardoner, greed was the source of all evil. In his story, the three men tried to eliminate each other to get the treasure they found all to themselves. However, these men meet their end by the time the tale was finished and the Pardoner reiterated that Greed was the source of all evil. Later, the Pardoner shamelessly tried ways to extort money from their pilgrim even though he knew the consequences of greed: “Now, goode men, God forgeve yow your trespass, And ware yow fro the sinne of avayce, Myn holy pardoun may yow alle waryce, So that ye offer nobles or sterlinges” (lines 442 – 445, Pardoner’s Tale). Even though the Pardoner was a grotesque and corrupt man, he preached well and used effective methods for his teaching. The interesting aspect about the Pardoner is that while he pointed out that avarice resulted in death; he did not forget to practice his scam with his companions in the pilgrimage. The judgment the three men face is for their sin of extreme greed. This fits with the Pardoner in the fact that his very existence is fueled by greed.

The main characters of the tales of the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath were confronted with a judgment which served to teach a moral lesson. Depending on the tale’s narrator, the lesson was either allowing a wife control in a relationship or not falling to the sin of avarice. Each of these lessons are conceived by narrator who told them, again either the Wife of Bath who advocated that women should have a part in the marriage or the Pardoner who held that greed was the root of all evil. Chaucer educated his audience on the importance of prudence (allowing the wife control in marriage) and moderation (the opposite of greed) though the stories of the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner.

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