Essay, Research Paper
The Pardoner as a Representative of the Church
The Pardoner is a disreputable representative of the church. The ?General Prologue? describes him as being a lying, swindling hypocrite, and he does not hesitate to tell you this himself. The main theme of his sermons, and ?The Pardoner?s Tale,? is ?love of money is the root to all evil,? yet his primary motivation in life is money. He dupes his listeners, and gains their acceptance of his authenticity, by displaying fancy religious letters and seals, and occasionally speaking Latin phrases. Once he has the listeners in his grasp, he takes advantage of the poor, na?ve people in his congregation and invites them to make offerings to be pardoned.
The Pardoner recites whichever memorized sermon he believes will bring him the greatest number of gifts and offerings. He refers to his job as a game and in it only to win profits for himself. He carries many counterfeit relics, such as a mitten, which is supposed to multiply the grains of its possessor, but in reality it does nothing. He carries numerous similar items with the intent of deceiving people and selling the relics for their false powers. His sermons are full of tricks and schemes with the sole intent of provoking guilt and duping people into giving offerings. For example, he warns the members of his congregation that unless they are burdened by sins too severe for a public confession, they better come forward to place an offering and be pardoned. The Pardoner says his ?exclusive purpose is to win, and not at all to castigate their sin? (243). He does not experience guilt in taking a poor woman?s only coin or a starving child?s last loaf of bread. He is a liar and a cheat, as well as, a hypocrite. In the ?Pardoner?s Tale,? the Pardoner ridicules men for drinking wine and preaches, ?those who drink are making a privy of their throats?(246). Ironically, he is drunk while he slanders those who drink. The Pardoner also preaches on gluttony, gambling, and swearing, yet he is frequently guilty of all three. Also, in the ?Pardoner?s Tale,? he addresses the other pilgrims on the journey as if they too are credulous fools on whom he could prey. Ironically, he informs the travelers of his immoral plot, and expects them to be beguiled by his dishonest scam. The Pardoner proves to be a terrible representative of the church by taking advantage of his position as a man of the cloth for personal gain.
Chaucer does, however, give a perfect example of how a man of the church is to live. A servant of the Lord should live a life similar to the description of the Parson?s life in the ?General Prologue.? The Parson is ?rich in holy thought and work,? as well as, benign, diligent, and patient. Acts 20:35 says, ?it is more blessed to give than to receive,? and the Parson exemplifies that by giving all he can spare to poor parishioners. He travels to pay a call whether ?rain or thunder,? and is a ?perfect Shepherd to his flock.? The Parson is never contemptuous of sinful men and lives his life by example, just as all godly men should do. That is why Chaucer says, ?there was never a better priest? (17).
The Pardoner does not follow many of the teachings of the New Testament. Money is the primary obsession in his life and he is never content with what he has. Jesus loathes hypocrisy and the Pardoner is a blatant hypocrite. In Mathew 23:25, Jesus speaks to the teachers of the law and says, ?you hypocrites, you clean the outside of the cup and dish but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.? The Pardoner receives well over one hundred marks a year more than the average Pardoner, yet he is still not content and wants more. Hebrews 13:5 says, ?keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.? The Pardoner claims to be a man of God although he does not live for him. The Fig tree is symbolic of God?s children, and the Lord curses hypocrites, such as, the Pardoner, who claim to be his but do not bear any fruit for him. The Pardoner is supposed to be a holy and trustworthy man but he is neither. He lives to serve himself and no other and that is what makes him a terrible representative of the Church.