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The Theme of Greed in The Pardoner's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer

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In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer writes of a man full of sin, but does so in a way that is both humorous and ironic. The tale is known as an exemplum, which further helps deliver the important message of the tale. The pardoner is a man who scams the people and uses their faith against them, telling them if they do not donate money to him, they will not go to Heaven. Ultimately, the Pardoner will preach anything he may need to as long as he profits from it. This man begins by speaking against all that partake in drinking, blasphemy, and gambling but later he admits to committing these sins himself. This is amusing to the reader because he blatantly is presenting himself as a hypocrite, and the people still donate to him. Chaucer is subtly commenting on the corruption of the church, and he does it in a playful manner. Many people love to advise others how to live their lives, but lack the concepts they preach themselves. The main idea of the Tale is “Radix malorum est cupiditas” or, “Greed is the root of all Evil.” The Pardoner preaches against avarice but the literal purpose of his sermon is to make money by exploiting the people of the Church, as well as the Church itself, making the tale very humorous for those reading it.

The Pardoner’s tale speaks of sin as well as corruption. The story seems as if it was written to directly undermine the people of the Church. The pardoner is a Church official, making him very important, but he obviously is only working for the church for the economic gain. In The Prologue to the tale the Pardoner blatantly reveals his greediness, ‘But let me briefly make my purpose plain, I preach for nothing but for greed of gain”. The Pardoner leads a sinister life and is consumed with cupiditas. He does not care about those he is preaching to, he cares solely about the money he will be receiving after his faux sermons. A Pardoner should care about the well-being of those that are listening to his sermons, and giving him money, but he does not care about whom the money may be coming from, he simply only cares that he gets that money.

The corruption of the Church is emphasized throughout the tale, as well as the entirety of the story when intertwined with the mentions of concepts such as swearing, gambling, drunkenness, and gluttony. The Pardoner explains what God would not condemn, yet all being traits he possesses, or activities he partakes in. The Pardoner does whatever it may take to get money from his listeners, which includes lying. The pardoner tricks the people into kissing “relics” from the church, which are indeed not authentic. The Pardoner’s greed had no limits because he was aware of the control he had over these people because of their commitment to their God.

Although written long ago, the overall message still holds relevance. The Pardoner not only tells his story, but also speaks of three men that lost their lives due to greed, further allowing the reader to understand what greed can do to someone. The theme of avarice in The Pardoner’s Tale depicts the consequences of greediness in people, and society; then, and now. 

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The Theme Of Greed In The Pardoner’s Tale By Geoffrey Chaucer. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from
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