The Canterbury Tales

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The Canterbury Tales The Pardoner’s Prologue Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Deeply moved by the Physician’s sad story, which the company has just heard, the Host turns to the Pardoner for a merry tale. The company, however, wants to hear a story with a good moral, and the Pardoner says he will give them what they want after he has a drink.
Even though the Host wants to hear a jolly story, he gets overruled by the company’s demand for a story with a moral; the Pardoner, a man with no principles, will give them whatever they want—after he satisfies his personal desire for a drink.
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The Pardoner says that every sermon he gives is always on the same theme: “Radix malorum est Cupiditas,” or “Greed is the root of all evils.” In these sermons, he shows his bag of fake relics to the congregation. He claims that sheep bones can cure ailments. The parishioners always believe him, and he tricks them into buying trinkets and hocus-pocus charms. It doesn’t bother the pardoner that when his congregation has been buried, their souls are left to wander: he is in the business of making money, not absolving sins.
The Pardoner always gives the same sermon––Greed is the root of all evils––yet he himself is unashamedly greedy. He's all "do what I say, not what I do," with an added twist of trying to get paid for getting people to do what he says. His Prologue, like the Wife of Bath’s, takes the form of a literary confession. The Pardoner admits that he dupes his gullible parishioners and that he doesn’t care if he saves souls so long as he makes a profit.
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In his sermons, the Pardoner always preaches about greed, the same sin that he himself freely admits possessing. Do as I say, not as I do, the Pardoner preaches: although he is guilty of avarice, he warns people about the dangers of covetousness through lots of examples. However, he himself would rather take a penny from a starving widow than give up his creature comforts. Having finished his ale, the Pardoner begins his tale.
Even though the Pardoner is guilty of greed and covetousness, he is not guilty of lying about it. He has the authority to tell tales warning against the dangers of greed because he himself lives a life dictated by avarice.
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