Canterbury Tales Focus Essay

Throughout literature, relationships can often be found between the author of a
story and the story that he writes. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s frame story,
Canterbury Tales, many of the characters make this idea evident with the tales
that they tell. A distinct relationship can be made between the character of the
Pardoner and the tale that he tells. Through the Prologue to the Pardoner’s
tale, the character of the Pardoner is revealed. Although the Pardoner displays
many important traits, the most prevalent is his greed. Throughout the prologue,
the Pardoner displays his greed and even admits that the only thing he cares
about is money: “I preach nothing except for gain” (“Pardoner’s
Tale”, Line 105). This avarice is seen strongly in the Pardoner’s tale as
well. In the Pardoner’s tale, three friends begin a journey in order to murder
Death. On their journey, though, an old man leads them to a great deal of
treasure. At this point, all three of the friends in the tale display a greed
similar to the Pardoner’s. The three friends decide that someone should bring
bread and wine for a celebration. As the youngest of the friends leaves to go
buy wine, the other two greedily plot to kill him so they can split the treasure
only two ways. Even the youngest decides to “put it in his mind to buy
poison / With which he might kill his two companions” (383, 384). The
greed, which is evident in the character of the Pardoner, is also clearly seen
in the tale. Another trait that is displayed by the Pardoner and a character in
his tale is hypocrisy. Although the Pardoner is extremely greedy, he continues
to try and teach that “Avarice is the root of all evil” (6). The
characters in his tale display great hypocrisy as well. As the tale begins, the
friends all act very trustworthy and faithful towards all of their friends. They
nobly make a decision to risk their lives while trying to slay their friend’s
murderer. As they talk about their challenge, they pledge “to live and die
each of them for the other, / As if he were his own blood brother”
(241-242). At the end of the tale, the “brothers” begin to reveal
their true nature. They all turn on each other in an attempt to steal the
treasure for themselves. All of the loyalty, which they had pledged, was simply
a lie and no faithfulness remained. While the two older “brother”
plotted to kill the younger, the younger “brother” plotted “to
kill them both and never to repent” (388). Thus, these so-called faithful
“brothers” display their true ruthlessness and reveal their hypocrisy
in relation to the Pardoner’s character. The characters in the “Pardoner’s
Tale” match the unctuous nature of the Pardoner in a great deal of ways.

All of these traits and ideas that are seen in both the Pardoner and the tale
that he tells show a strong relationship in the two. Chaucer used this technique
in all of the tales that are recorded in Canterbury Tales. This technique gives
a greater insight into the mind of the teller. By analyzing the tales, it is
possible to learn much about the teller of the tale. Using this method, Chaucer
focuses on the characteristics of each of the people involved in Canterbury
Tales, but also keeps the poem interesting.

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