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Blasphemy in The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale

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    The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale, by Chaucer, is a story about a corrupt Pardoner who tells a tale about three sinners.

    In The Pardoner’s Tale, the Pardoner is a blasphemer as well as the three men in his story; blasphemy is in the very structure of the story itself. Nearly all of the Canterbury Tales are related to the storytellers in someway, this very true of The Pardoner’s Tale.The Pardoner may be the biggest blasphemer in the whole tale. Blasphemy is defined as: a contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity; the act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.

    We first see the Pardoner in the General Prologue where his vile outward appearance suggests his inner corruption. “This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wax,” it was thin, long and stringy. “Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare.” In his lap he held his knapsack; “bretful of pardoun comen from Rome al hoot.

    ” He would take these relics to the countryside and prey on poor people and he would make more money in one day “than that the person gat in monthes tweye.” He made fools of the parson and of the people; “ne was ther swich another pardoner.” He is skillful at his business and very proud of his cleverness.The first act on the long list of his blasphemy would have to be his claim to be holy and that his relics are sacred.

    He soon reveals he is false and his intent “is nat but for to wynne, And nothing for correccioun of synne.” Only one other time does he admit to being a fake; he tells the pilgrims at the end of his tale that Christ’s pardon alone has the power to heal the soul and then immediately tries to sell his bogus relics and his phony pardons.The Pardoner’s tale is appropriate for him to tell because he is the living example of the sins he is preaching against. He goes off, on a couple of instances, into sermon.

    His first warning is, money is the root of all evil; the reader knows that he is greedy and this immediately proves him to be a hypocrite. He then begins a long attack on gluttony starting with drunkenness;The hooly writ take I to my witnesseThat luxurie is in wyn and dronkenesse.If this is true and this is blasphemous then, he is a blasphemer. In the beginning of his tale he stops to get a drink when his story gets going he says, he will start up the story now that he has “dronke a draughte of corny ale.

    “When he breaks back into his sermon, he states,O glotonye, ful of cursednesse!O cause first of oure confusioun!…Corrupt was al this world for glotonye.

    The Pardoner is a very greedy man; he loves money so much it makes him a glutton. He is also gluttonous in his pursuit of “drynke and …

    cake,” he eats and drinks beyond the point of satiety.The Pardoner then goes on to attack gambling saying,now wol I yow deffenden hasardrye.Hasard is verray mooder of lesynges.He says that this is blasphemy and it makes great men weak.

    Next, he moves to swearing,Gret sweryng is a thing abhominable,And faks swerung is yet moore reprievable.The Pardoner says that God has forbidden swearing and talks about the commandment that states not to take the Lord’s name in vain.After his two-hundred-line sermon, the Pardoner gets back to telling his tale. The men in his story are guilty of all of the sins above.

    The Pardoner seems to lump all of the sins together in the midst of his rhetoric into one, blasphemy. The story starts out,younge folk that haunteden folye,As riot, hazard, stywes, and taverns…

    They daunce and pleyen at dees bothe day and nyght,And eten also wnd drynken over hir might.Immediately we see that the three characters in the story are drunk, full, and gambling “by superfluytee abhomynable;” they are gluttons and therefore blasphemers. They hear of a friend that has passed away and are told that Death killed him. In their drunken rage they run out of the tavern andmany a grisly ooth thane han they sworn,And Cristes blessed body they torenteDeeth shal be deed, if that they may hym hente!They are upset and swear to God that they will kill Death to revenge their friend’s life.

    Their oath to each other is blasphemous and the Pardoner says that they tear Christ’s blessed body into pieces with it. On their way to find Death, they meet an old man who wants to die he says, “Deeth, allas, ne wol nat han my lyf.” The three foolish men think that the old man is a spy for Death and demand to know where he is. The old man tells them to go up the hill and Death will be waiting for them under a tree.

    When the men get there they find gold and then decide to keep it. They draw straws for who will go to get bread and wine for them to eat and the youngest of the trio is sent. While the youngest is gone he takes the Lord’s name in vain;’O Lord!’ quod he, ‘if so wer that I mighteHave al this tresor to myself allone,Ther is no man that liveth under the troneOf God that sholde live so murye as I.During the young sinner’s trip the two others plot to kill him so that they can keep more of the gold for themselves.

    They young one poisons the wine and after the two others have killed they young one, they drink the wine and both die.There is another kind of blasphemy in the tale; a blasphemous satire of God, come to life in the shape of the narrative. The men’s whole purpose in the story is to kill Death. This concept of the death of Death is a traditional expression of Christ’s Crucifixion.

    The travelers’ function is offered as a blasphemous spoof of Jesus’ task in the Crucifixion.Similar satire in the story, the two elder travelers plot to kill the young one. They send him to town for bread and wine. When he returns, the others “rive him thurge the sides tweye” tearing his body as Christ’s body was torn.

    Yet another blasphemous parody would be the allusion to the Pardoner as a snake. With images such as;Thanne wol I stinge him with my tonge smerte [and]Thus spitte I out my venym under hewe.These metaphors give the reader an idea that the Pardoner is like the snake in the Garden of Eden; he promises the world but the promises are deceitful and empty.Chaucer’s tale is full of blasphemy, from the storyteller, to the characters, to the very story itself.

    The Pardoner is guilty of blasphemy for his meaningless pardons, his phony relics, the telling of the blasphemous tale and for gluttony. The men in his story are blasphemous because they swear, drink, stuff themselves, and gamble. The Pardoner’s Tale is a story about damnation, in which we see not only, God punishing them for their sins, but they are knowingly damning themselves.

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    Blasphemy in The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale. (2017, Dec 22). Retrieved from

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