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Discussion - Canterbury Tales > Week 6 - The Pardoner's Tale

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I wondered whether we would ever get to a tale, with all the long and weird combination of self-abnegation and puffery he goes through. (After all of which, telling what a charlatan he is, at the end he tries to get Harry Bailey to patronize him!)

The church could hardly have been pleased with this portrait of a pardoner. But it does reflect the growing dissatisfaction with the established church that even in Chaucer's time was foreshadowing the Reformation.

At any rate, he eventually does got to his tale, and weird it is, but totally moral. The wages of sin is death, of course, but also the lure of greed brings death. I love the old man sending them to the pile of gold knowing what was in store for them. Wise old man!

But we shouldn't forget that many people of Chaucer's age took relics very seriously, and would have believed the lies he told them and the efficacy of his alleged nostrums and cures. (And how much had changed from the Pardoner's day to the age of snake oils sold of the backs of wagons here in the Americas 500 years later?)

Is there any depth to this tale that I'm missing? It seems to me totally shallow and obvious. Is there more "there" there?


message 2: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Lavoie | 33 comments Everyman wrote: "I wondered whether we would ever get to a tale, with all the long and weird combination of self-abnegation and puffery he goes through. (After all of which, telling what a charlatan he is, at the ..."

There is a moral to the tale which is interesting given the man telling the tale, but what I found interesting was the irony of the prologue and then the tale itself. Here is the Pardoner who says he needs a drink before he tells his tale, and then goes on to speak of gluttony and those who drink to much in his prologue, and in the tale itself, two of the men die by being poisoned from the wine. I thought that was rather amusing.

Depending on the people, religious relics are still taken seriously. I recently saw a show that discussed religious relics and, I'm not sure this applied then, but in the Catholic religion today it is forbidden to sell sacred relics of any class.

I found this article interesting about religious relics: http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/r...

The article does discuss impostors dressed as monks who sold "relics" of the saints to those who were superstitious.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Jennifer wrote: "Here is the Pardoner who says he needs a drink before he tells his tale, and then goes on to speak of gluttony and those who drink to much in his prologue, and in the tale itself, two of the men die by being poisoned from the wine. I thought that was rather amusing. ."

That's a good catch. I hadn't connected his need for a drink at the start with the contents of the tale. But I see it's definitely there once I'm pointed to it. Good find.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Jennifer wrote: "The article does discuss impostors dressed as monks who sold "relics" of the saints to those who were superstitious. "

It emphasizes that in a non-literate, class-based culture, those who are literate and of a higher class can deceive the public almost at will.


message 5: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 10, 2011 01:46AM) (new)

MadgeUK On the other hand many intellectuals at this time felt that society, as a whole, needed some sort of moral enlightenment and Chaucer expressed his moral ideas through The Canterbury Tales. 'The Pardoner’s Tale', as corrupt and exploiting as it was managed to express a clear moral message that greed can lead to destruction. In 'The Nun’s Priest’s Tale Chaucer shows how sycophants used laudatory words to persuade or trick people into complying with their wants and desires. Liberal though Chaucer may seem to be in comparison with others of his age, especially about women, he is still true to his class in stressing morality throughout these tales, no matter how immoral and ribald they may seem to be on the surface.


message 6: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Is it very strange that a merchant, a wine merchant for example, would be good at hawking wine yet freely admit that he doesn't really care to drink it himself?

In a world where you can pay for, and be absolved of, your sins by giving money to a priest it would only make sense that the priest could, without shame, admit to being a hypocrite.

When forgiveness of sins is a commodity for sale, it isn't all that strange that the trader in this commodity does not himself partake of it, and isn't particularly ashamed to admit it.


message 7: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 19, 2011 07:37PM) (new)

MadgeUK I don't think it is at all unusual for someone not to like the commodity he/she sells - I think it must apply to many salesmen/women. As the Pardoner points out, drinking wine can lead people into a lot of 'sin'. The strange thing is that catholics, as part of the belief in transubstantiation, were required to take sacramental wine at communion so I wonder what happens if you were (or are) teetotal? Not participating in Mass is, I think, a venial sin.

I was amused to note the denigrating references to French and Spanish wines. In Medieval times most English monasteries made wine for sale, so it was in the vendors interest to criticise foreign wine. The climate in England was warmer in medieval times and viticulture was first introduced by the Romans. We still have vineyards in certain areas and the climate is beginning to favour them again.

http://www.wrightsvineyard.com/the-hi...


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments MadgeUK wrote: "II was amused to note the denigrating references to French and Spanish wines. In Medieval times most English monasteries made wine for sale, so it was in the vendors interest to criticise foreign wine. The climate in England was warmer in medieval times and viticulture was first introduced by the Romans. We still have vineyards in certain areas and the climate is beginning to favour them again.."

There is a theory, which I think is entirely plausible, that the reason the English are primarily beer drinkers while the French and Italians are primarily wine drinkers is that during the cooling period that followed the Medieval Warm Period vineyards largely died out in England, but flourished in France, Italy, and Spain, so the English turned generally to beer, since the hops and barley needed for beer still grew well in England, and importing the heavy bottles or casks of wine by sailing ship was costly.


message 9: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 21, 2011 03:28AM) (new)

MadgeUK Yes, they did die out. Beer is also cheaper and easier to brew. It was always the drink of the lower classes because it is easily brewed at home. Wine drinking only became popular amongst ordinary folk comparatively recently because cheaper varieties of wine from both Spain and France became available and foreign package holidays had introduced Brits to it. My parents and grandparents only drank fortified wines like port and sherry and then only on special occasions. Beer was drunk by the men and a shandy (beer with lemonade) was popular with ladies.

From Wikipedia: By the Late Middle Ages, beer was drunk with every meal [in England and the Low Countries]. Though probably one of the most popular drinks in Europe, beer was disdained by science as being unhealthy, mostly because ancient Greek and more contemporary Arab physicians had little or no experience with the drink. In 1256, the Aldobrandino of Siena described the nature of beer in the following way:

“ But from whichever it is made, whether from oats, barley or wheat, it harms the head and the stomach, it causes bad breath and ruins the teeth, it fills the stomach with bad fumes, and as a result anyone who drinks it along with wine becomes drunk quickly; but it does have the property of facilitating urination and makes one's flesh white and smooth.'

Drinking beer (and tea) instead of contaminated water was also a healthier option until modern sewerage systems were introduced by the Victorians.


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