Discussion Question: Compare the Pardonerâ€™s relics with his stories/advice.
While reading Geoffrey Chaucerâ€™s The Canterbury Tales, it immediately became clear that there was a sharp contradiction between the Pardonerâ€™s actions and words. He uses supposed â€˜relicsâ€™ to make others see him as a â€œnoble ecclesiasteâ€, but in reality both he and the relics are not what they appear to be (260). The Pardonerâ€™s use of these holy objects directly contrasts with his sermons on the dangers of greed; he himself uses the relics to gain wealth and is therefore responsible for the very sin that he warns against. He does not seem to be ashamed of this fact and takes every opportunity to brag of it to his friends (312-315). Â The Pardoner has a â€œtonge [that can] winne silverâ€, and he uses his gift with words to accumulate as much money as possible, and does not ever seem to consider the moral consequences that come about as a result of his selfish actions (260).
In The General Prologue, several of the Pardonerâ€™s â€˜holyâ€™ objects are described by the narrator:
He saide he hadde a gobet of the sail
That Sainte Peter hadde whan that he wente
Upon the see, til Jesu Crist him hente.
He hadde a crois of laton, a ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones. (260)
It is nearly impossible that these relics are the actual objects from Biblical times. However, based on the Pardonerâ€™s hypocritical nature, it is very likely that he is quite aware of this fact and chooses to use it to his own advantage. It is even mentioned in a footnote in the text that the Pardoner presents pigâ€™s bones as saintâ€™s bones to individuals who come to him for help (260). It is clear that he is using these objects to â€œ[make] theâ€¦peple his apesâ€ (260). In other words, the Pardoner is using the relics as a bribe for individuals; if they donate money to him, they will be forgiven of their sins, and will therefore be worthy â€œTo offren to [his] relikes in this placeâ€ (313). Â They have been led to believe by the Pardonerâ€™s sermons that greed is a terrible crime for which many of them are guilty. What they do not realize is that the real criminal is standing before them giving them advice he himself does not follow.
Overall, it is arguable that the Pardonerâ€™s fake relics reflect his own deceptive personality, and that they both are a sharp contrast to his supposedly â€˜nobleâ€™ stories and pieces of advice. All of these ideas bring forward the question of whether Chaucer intended for us, as the readers, to hate the Pardoner for his crimes, or if we were meant to respect him for his skills of trickery? Furthermore, do all of his companions admire him as the Pardoner believes they do?
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Norton Anthology of Â English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. A. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., Inc., 2012. 243-342. Print.