The Pardoner and The "Brothers"


Throughout literature, relationships can often be found between
the author of a story and the story that he writes. In Geoffrey
Chaucer\'s frame story, Canterbury Tales, many of the characters
make this idea evident with the tales that they tell. A distinct
relationship can be made between the character of the Pardoner and
the tale that he tells.

Through the Prologue to the Pardoner\'s tale, the character of the
Pardoner is revealed. Although the Pardoner displays many
important traits, the most prevalent is his greed. Throughout the
prologue, the Pardoner displays his greed and even admits that the
only thing he cares about is money: "I preach nothing except for
gain" ("Pardoner\'s Tale", Line 105). This avarice is seen
strongly in the Pardoner\'s tale as well. In the Pardoner\'s tale,
three friends begin a journey in order to murder Death. On their
journey, though, an old man leads them to a great deal of
treasure. At this point, all three of the friends in the tale
display a greed similar to the Pardoner\'s. The three friends
decide that someone should bring bread and wine for a
celebration. As the youngest of the friends leaves to go buy
wine, the other two greedily plot to kill him so they can split
the treasure only two ways. Even the youngest decides to "put it
in his mind to buy poison / With which he might kill his two
companions" (383, 384). The greed, which is evident in the
character of the Pardoner, is also clearly seen in the tale.

Another trait that is displayed by the Pardoner and a character in
his tale is hypocrisy. Although the Pardoner is extremely
greedy, he continues to try and teach that "Avarice is the root of
all evil" (6). The characters in his tale display great hypocrisy
as well. As the tale begins, the friends all act very trustworthy
and faithful towards all of their friends. They nobly make a
decision to risk their lives while trying to slay their friend\'s
murderer. As they talk about their challenge, they pledge "to
live and die each of them for the other, / As if he were his own
blood brother" (241-242). At the end of the tale, the "brothers"
begin to reveal their true nature. They all turn on each other in
an attempt to steal the treasure for themselves. All of the
loyalty, which they had pledged, was simply a lie and no
faithfulness remained. While the two older "brother" plotted to
kill the younger, the younger "brother" plotted "to kill them both
and never to repent" (388). Thus, these so-called faithful
"brothers" display their true ruthlessness and reveal their
hypocrisy in relation to the Pardoner\'s character.

The characters in the "Pardoner\'s Tale" match the unctuous nature
of the Pardoner in a great deal of ways. All of these traits and
ideas that are seen in both the Pardoner and the tale that he
tells show a strong relationship in the two. Chaucer used this
technique in all of the tales that are recorded in Canterbury
Tales. This technique gives a greater insight into the mind of
the teller. By analyzing the tales, it is possible to learn much
about the teller of the tale. Using this method, Chaucer focuses
on the characteristics of each of the people involved in
Canterbury Tales, but also keeps the poem interesting.