Chaucer:  Day Two Handout

English 203

Dr. Fike




Papers due




1.  How does the Wife of Bath support the anti-feminism that she rails against?

2.  Compare and contrast the Prioress and the Wife of Bath.

3.  "What's love got to do with it?"

4.  What sort of reverdie does Chaucer describe in the first 18 lines of the "General Prologue"?

5.  Name two important concepts that originated during the Medieval period?


The Pardoner's "Prologue" and "Tale"


Key Terms




Related Reading




Outline for Professor's Remarks


  1. First mention of the Pardoner in the "General Prologue":


  1. Summoner:Pardoner::justice:mercy.


  1. Homosexual relationship:


  1. Types of love, Pardoner's perversion of love (carnal love):


  1. Eunuch:  Pardoner vs. Matthew 19:12.


  1. Vetus homo vs. novus homo.  See Ephesians 4:22-24.  Pardoner vs. Parson.


  1. Pardoner's avarice vs. Matthew 6:19-21. 


  1. Pardoner's use of language:  he deconstructs the epistemological structure of the Middle Ages.
    1. Language/words:
    2. Icons/relics:
    3. Eucharist:
    4. Point:  Kenosis


  1. Words:truth::intellect:reality::sexuality:procreation. 


  1. Host's attack on the Pardoner's intellectual position.


  1. Pardoner's tale:
    1. Medieval sermons:  exemplum invective.
    2. Pardoner:  exemplum (frame) invective exemplum (frame).
  2. Medieval paradox:  Can a dishonest man be honest to his audience?


    1. First view:


    1. Second view:


Questions for Discussion


  1. Where might the Pardoner be when he tells his tale, and what is the significance of this setting?


  1. Does the Pardoner's self-revelation violate dramatic law?  Why would he reveal himself to the other pilgrims?


  1. What is the setting of the tale that the Pardoner tells, and why is that significant?


  1. How would you characterize the rioters?  What warnings do they receive?


  1. How does the Pardoner characterize the Old Man?  Who IS he?


  1. At the end of the tale, is the Pardoner totally culpable?  ("That, sirs, is how I preach," etc.; see lines 459-62.)  Why does he then try to sell relics and pardons to his fellow travelers?


Biblical Quotations Relevant to the Pardoner:


I Timothy 6:10:  "For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs."


I Timothy 1:4-5:  "the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith."  Pardoner's lack of charity.


I Timothy 6:4-5:  " . . . he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain."  Pardoner's misuse of words.


I Timothy 2:7:  "for this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth."  Another translation:  "I speak the truth in Christ." 


Matthew 6:19-21:  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."


Matthew 19:12:  "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."


Ephesians 4:22-24:  "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24). 


A view of the ending:  "Noting that the Pilgrims may be under his spell, the Pardoner is said to see them as another and fatter flock of victims.  Then . . . he turns to them suddenly and tells them that this is the way he preaches to ignorant people; but they, the Pilgrims, are his friends, and he prays that they may receive Christ's pardon; he would never deceive them; consequently they are to come and kiss the relics" (Chaucer:  Modern Essays in Criticism, pages 148-49).