A very odd man, this Pardoner is.
We get a description of him as this old, stringy-haired man (lines 677-684, page 259), and immediately this seems odd…from the description, I’m picturing this guy:
…minus the beard, I suppose. Hm, not exactly what I imagine when I think of a religious figure. Nonetheless, we press on. The relics he carries are mainly the type of things that he would need toÂ justify–A pillowcase, a piece of a sail, pig’s bones in a jar–along with a more self-explanatory relic: a brass cross.
It seems too appropriate that the Pardoner himself is this man with “A vois … as [high-pitched] as hath a [goat]…”(line 690, page 260). However,Â Chaucer tells us that the Pardoner’s good at what he does…and by good I mean he reaps every benefit of his work.
At this point I became suspicious if this was truly a Pardoner or just a man posing as one.
But once we hear the prologue of the Pardoner, his gift of the ‘silver tongue’ becomes clear. He has a way with words that makes people want to believe. He preys on the naivete of the people; telling them grand tales.
This man doesn’t mind lying outright, and he has often used his position of power to save himself. It’s interesting to note, however, that he will only lie to a certain extent. He mentions in line 159 that he won’t go as far as to imitate the Apostles but he will tell stories about a soup of brass water resolving infidelity issues. From this, I gathered that his relics are his shield against any that try to stop his–very outright–greed.
His sermons, if you will, are centered around greed being the source of evil. Meanwhile, he admits that his own greed is fed by those trying to free themselves from their greed:
“For myn entente is nat but forr to winne,
And no thing for correccion of sinne…” (lines 115-116, page 313)
In this way, the Pardoner uses his relics as tools of his trade: He tells a great story, people give him stuff.
The Pardoner is a fascinating character, because to the passer-by the man could pass as homeless, but if anyone tried to harass him he had his relics and his papers to defend himself. The man tells us that he (metaphorically) cuts down any who try to challenge him in his authority (lines 125-128, page 314). I feel like his relics are a reflection of how he can use his gifts, regardless of his appearance to create such a strong defence for himself. He must have a hell of a poker face.
Chaucer, Geoffrey.Â The Canterbury Tales.Â Norton Anthology of Â English Literature.Â Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9thed. Vol. A. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., Inc., 2012. 259-260; 310-315. Print.