The Deceptive Character In The Pardoner's Tale

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The Pardoner is a deceptive character in The Pardoner’s Tale. Not only does he deceive his “customers” for personal profit he does so to the pilgrims as well. The Pardoner deceives his audience by hiding his personal life story in his fictional story. He even admits that he is hiding someone is his stories saying, “for though I do not mention his name, people shall know whom I mean by hints” (Chaucer 4). There are many hints in his story that clearly outline that he is talking about himself, however, the Pardoner constructs his frames so that these hints become successively less concrete and more abstract. The first frame is defined as the ‘Pilgrimage Frame’ and it involves the time spent before the prologue begins, it is the overarching story…show more content…
For example, right before the Pardoner begins his story, in frame two, he says he has “drunk a good draught of malty beer,” (4) and earlier that he “will have a merry wench in every town and drink liquor from the vine” (4). When he explains the actions of the company of young people, in frame three, he says they “made a habit of folly, such as... brothels and taverns… and [they] ate and drank more than they could” (5). These two descriptions are strikingly similar and means that the Pardoner is not only a part of his storyworld but that the story is about himself. Further, the Pardoner even outright describes himself during his moralistic preaching in frame three. He says, “O Stinking Bag! Full of corruption! What a labor and cost it is to provide for you!” (6). The Pardoner is also described in this way in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. It is said that, “in his bag he had a pillow-case which he said was our Lady’s kerchief and a small piece of the sail which he said St. Peter had when he walked upon the sea and Jesus Christ caught him… [and a] set full of false gems” (Chaucer, “The General Prologue”). It is clear then that the Pardoner is directly in his story. That is, until the fourth frame. The ‘company of young people’ turn into ‘three rioters’ (Chaucer, “The Pardoner’s Tale” 8). This is an important distinction as the Pardoner removes himself from the story. This is how he hides his story and thus misleads his…show more content…
Even though he creates a story that encapsulates his own personal story, he does it for greed. It is ironic, then, that his moral is “desire for earthly things is the root of all evil” (2) as his desire for money has clearly caused him to turn evil. This is all only evident, however, once these themes have been drawn out. Themes that have been obscured by the construction of increasingly abstract frames. The Pardoner clearly means to mislead the audience into believing that he is not a bad person. He swindles money from his customers by appearing to be honest. He, however, edits the truth and conceals his true motives. The reason why this method of deception does not work on the Pilgrims is because he himself highlights the themes highlighted above. Jumping from the fourth frame to the third preaching frame to the first frame at the end of his tale allowed the Pilgrims to reassociate the Pardoner with greed (13). This is because he has obviously skipped the second frame - his explanation of how he is a fraud (4). This is viewed as insulting to the host prompting him to say, “I wish I had your testicles in my hand instead of relics or a sanctuary… they shall be enshrined in a hog’s turd!” (14) It is therefore clear that the Pardoner’s attempt to deceive his audience fails. Despite this, he is forgiven and thus allowed to continue his train of calculated

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