Tag Archives: Chaucer

Don’t be greedy teaching others to not be greedy

pardoners tale canterbury

Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale is a genius of irony. The Pardoner tells of three drunks who go off to kill Death, a hilarious over-personification. An old man tells them they’ll find him resting under some trees up the road around the corner. When they get there, they find eight bags of gold and immediately forget their original purpose. Instead, they propose to cart the gold off at night. In the meantime, one goes in to town to get bread and win. The others stay and watch the loot.

But then one suggests they kill the third, thus dividing the treasure between two instead of three. For his part, the guy getting win buys poison to kill his buddies and get all the gold for himself. When he comes back, they kill him. Then they drink the wine — and die.

There’s plenty of irony in this story but the ultimate irony is the fact that it’s told by a Pardoner, a guy who goes around selling “indulgences.” What better way to get people to give him money than by urging them not to be greedy with a hard-hitting story. In telling others to not be greedy, the Pardoner shows his greed.