As I carefully read Chaucer’s work I found the passage about the characters’ adventure in the tale particularly interesting.
Firstly, I was intrigued due to theÂ resemblanceÂ to J.K Rowling’s â€œThe Tale of the Three Brothersâ€Â from her short fictional bookÂ The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Â This came forth in my mind because of theÂ similarity of plot, in which three characters are seeking and/or wanting to master Death.
On a side note: after a little research online, I found an interesting article from the University of Chicago by a graduate named John Granger. According to the man known as the ‘Dean of Harry Potter Scholars’,Â The Canterbury TalesÂ were “an influence onÂ her [Rowling] last novel” (Granger).Â If this intrigues you I highly suggest looking at John Granger’s featured article “Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower” located here.
Secondly, I was interested in the way Chaucer used death in “The Pardoner’s Tale”. Â And more specifically the way lines 471 to 493, on page 321, reinforce Chaucer’s choice toÂ personify death. Â Death is what the three “riotoures” are seeking (480). The personification of death is found in this passage, but throughout the tale as well.Â Multiple times “he” and “him” are used to personify death in the passage (476). Â Â Also, death is capitalised as â€œDeethâ€ several times,Â levellingÂ its meaning to a noun or somethingÂ substantialÂ (473).
Now, what I foundÂ interestingÂ was that Chaucer chose to personify death for majority of “The Pardoner’s Tale” and then chose to remove any personification once the “florins” were found (482). In most fictional novels that I have read which personify death,Â an actualÂ embodimentÂ or figure appears as death (or as a symbol of death) at some point. But in “The Pardoner’s Tale” this does not really occur. Death as a figure is the motivation for the men to follow the old man’s directions, but the men never meet a personified figure of death, just death itself.
The reader is lead to line 484 predicting that death is a “false thief” figure Â awaiting the men under an oak tree (471). But Chaucer does an interesting twist on line 484. In one line (“Ne lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte”) an important part of the taleÂ disappears. From my analysisÂ I noticed that death is no longer personified after line 484. Death is present, but not personified.
Is it wrong? No. In my opinion I think that it’s actually brilliant.Â Chaucer’s choice to use andÂ instantaneouslyÂ remove a constant piece is soÂ meticulous andÂ serendipitous. It shapes the way the tale concludes.
My only questions is: did Chaucer remove the personified death for his audience? Was this done to emphasise that the three men were each meeting death in their own deaths, not a figure of death?Â Maybe or maybe not. It may be a question only Chaucer could answer.
You can find out more about John Granger here.
Feel like reading modern comics that are based on “The Pardoner’s Tale”? Click here.
Feel like watching the movie version of “The Tale of Three Brothers”? Click here.
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. 321. Print.
Granger, John. “The University of Chicago Magazine: Features.”Â The University of Chicago Magazine: Features. The University of Chicago Magazine, July-Aug. 2009. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. <http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0908/features/ivory_tower.shtml>.