Essay about The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
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The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Chaucer's Pardoner is unique within the group travelling to Canterbury. While the Parson, the Wife of Bath, the Clerk, and others would love to sway the group toward their respective opinions and views, the Pardoner intends to swindle the group out of its money. His sermons are based on sound theology, but they are rendered hollow by his complete lack of integrity in applying them to his own life. He is a hypocrite - his root intention is to accrue money. Curiously, the Pardoner is openly honest about the nature of his operations. The portrait of the Pardoner in the "General Prologue" gives an overture to this character by stating simply what he does. He targets simple (often…show more content…
The Pardoner's tale becomes a microcosm of the Canterbury Tales itself: an attempt to find a holy, didactic message within entertainment and baseness. Further analysis of the Pardoner himself leads to the question of whether there is any good within him. The Pardoner makes it extremely clear to the group (and, incidentally, to us as readers) exactly how he swindles common people. He then goes on to attempt the same actions against them after telling his tale, a seemingly absurd act. Chaucer isn't simply being sloppy here in trying to convey the Pardoner's nature to us as readers - if Chaucer didn't want the travelers to know how the Pardoner works, then he would have told us more discreetly. There must be some reason for the Pardoner's indiscretion. Even while under the influence (however great or small) of alcohol, he wouldn't tell the group what he does unless he wanted to. It remains, then, to explore further the Pardoner's character and the reasons for his actions. I stated earlier that the Pardoner's root intention is to accrue money. This is the account that he offers himself. The Pardoner's lack of discretion, however, negates this root drive. If he only wants money, then his presence in the pilgrimage is exclusively for swindling the others. He would not have complicated that goal by revealing his art - which he does. This revealing, then, might be explained as a perverse game or challenge to his skills as a con artist. Perhaps the
Moreover, he has never said a rude thing to anyone in his entire life (cf., ll. 66-7). Clearly, the knight possesses an outstanding character. Chaucer gives to the knight one of the more flattering descriptions in the General Prologue. The knight can do no wrong: he is an outstanding warrior who has fought for the true faith–according to Chaucer–on three continents. In the midst of all this contention, however, the knight remains modest and polite. The knight is the embodiment of the chivalric code: he is devout and courteous off the battlefield and is bold and fearless on it. In twentieth century America, we would like to think that we have many people in our society who are like Chaucer’s knight. During this nation’s altercation with Iraq in 1991, the concept of the modest but effective soldier captured the imagination of the country. Indeed, the nation’s journalists in many ways attempted to make General H. Norman Schwarzkof a latter day knight. The general was made to appear as a fearless leader who really was a regular guy under the uniform. It would be nice to think that a person such as the knight could exist in the twentieth century. The fact of the matter is that it is unlikely that people such as the knight existed even in the fourteenth century. As he does with all of his characters, Chaucer is producing a stereotype in creating the knight. As noted above, Chaucer, in describing the knight, is describing a chivalric ideal. The history of the Middle Ages demonstrates that this ideal rarely was manifested in actual conduct. Nevertheless, in his description of the knight, Chaucer shows the reader the possibility of the chivalric way of life.