Archetypal Elements in The Pardoner's Tale

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 536 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 536|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

The Pardoner's Tale, a part of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, is a compelling narrative that delves into the complexities of human nature, morality, and greed. Through the character of the Pardoner, Chaucer explores various archetypal elements that have been present in literature for centuries. This essay will analyze the archetypal elements present in The Pardoner's Tale, including the representations of the trickster, the shadow, and the quest. By examining these archetypes, we can gain a deeper understanding of the characters and themes in the tale and their enduring relevance to human experience.

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The trickster archetype is a common figure in literature and mythology, often characterized by deceit, manipulation, and a penchant for causing trouble. In The Pardoner's Tale, the Pardoner himself embodies the trickster archetype. He is a master of deception, using his position as a religious figure to swindle unsuspecting people out of their money. The Pardoner's manipulation and cunning are evident in his storytelling, as he uses fear and guilt to manipulate his audience into buying his pardons. Additionally, the Pardoner's moral ambiguity and willingness to exploit others for personal gain align with the trickster archetype's characteristic amorality. Through the Pardoner, Chaucer provides a complex portrayal of the trickster archetype, illustrating the destructive potential of deceit and manipulation.

Another key archetypal element in The Pardoner's Tale is the representation of the shadow. In Jungian psychology, the shadow represents the unconscious aspects of the human psyche, including repressed desires, fears, and impulses. In the tale, the three rioters exemplify the shadow archetype through their morally dubious actions and unchecked desires. Their pursuit of wealth and their disregard for societal norms mirror the shadow's tendency to act on primal instincts and selfish desires. The rioters' descent into greed and betrayal serves as a cautionary tale about the destructive potential of the shadow when left unchecked. By portraying the shadow archetype in The Pardoner's Tale, Chaucer highlights the timeless struggle between morality and temptation, shedding light on the darker aspects of human nature.

Furthermore, The Pardoner's Tale incorporates the quest archetype, a motif that appears in numerous literary works across cultures. The rioters' quest for death and their subsequent discovery of wealth serves as a microcosm of the broader human quest for meaning and fulfillment. Their journey through the forest symbolizes the challenges and trials that individuals face on their personal quests. Additionally, the rioters' ultimate demise serves as a cautionary reminder of the consequences of pursuing misguided or destructive goals. Through the quest archetype, Chaucer explores the universal themes of ambition, temptation, and the search for purpose, offering readers a poignant reflection on the human experience.

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In conclusion, The Pardoner's Tale incorporates several archetypal elements that enrich the narrative and deepen its thematic resonance. By examining the trickster, shadow, and quest archetypes present in the tale, we gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their motivations, as well as the broader human experiences they represent. Chaucer's skillful integration of these archetypes elevates The Pardoner's Tale from a simple morality fable to a timeless exploration of human nature and morality. As such, the tale continues to captivate and resonate with readers centuries after its creation, a testament to the enduring power of archetypal storytelling in literature.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Archetypal Elements in The Pardoner’s Tale. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
“Archetypal Elements in The Pardoner’s Tale.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Archetypal Elements in The Pardoner’s Tale. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
Archetypal Elements in The Pardoner’s Tale [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 Jun 20]. Available from:
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