Irony in The Pardoner's tale Geoffrey Chaucer is indeed one of the greatest English poets. His masterpiece The Canterbury Tales is noted one of the finest works of literature in the world. Chaucer used the setting of a pilgrimage to Canterbury, where Archbishop Thomas a Becket was murdered, as a frame story to tell the tales of each of his memorable and vividly drawn characters. One noted tale is that of the Pardoner, in which Chaucer uses exemplum to provide full effect of this simple but brilliant anecdote. In the Pardoner's tale, the pardoner tells a vicious anecdote filled with greed and sin, as the Pardoner is himself.
The pardoner narrates a powerful sermon which he fathoms will move his listeners to repent from their affluence of sins. Although, he does not desire to save them from their sins but he wants to make them anxious so they can give him money in exchange for false pardons. The pardoner's purpose is that the audience, realizing their sins, will give him money to benefit from his false pardons. Thus, the pardoner embarks upon imparting a sinister tale full of sin and avarice to satisfy his own selfishness and greed.
Irony comes when he explains that avarice is his own vice, yet he proceeds to preach against greed to brings his audience to repent from their own greedy sins. The pardoner's meaning and intent are contrary. His story of three young men over come by greed illustrates that this greed in fact will cause their downfall in the end. They intend kill this traitor Death who has slain their dear friend (p 160 line 39). But, when these young men come across a pile of gold the initial purpose was forgot, No longer was it death those fellows sought (p 161 line 114). These particular lines together seem to be very ironic, coming from the lips of the pardoner, because he supposedly was appointed to sell papal pardons.
But, he soon forgets his purpose to assist people to repent fro sin and begins a fraudulent task in which he sells false indulgences for repentance, thus neglecting his purpose for his own personal gain, as did the three doomed men. In denouement, the men succumb to the greed and die a most unfortunate death. A subsequent example of irony is the last line, Thus these two murderers received their due, so did the treacherous young poisoner too (p 164 lines 237-238). The pardoner relates that the evil young men were killed, the first two because of plotting to murder the third, and the third because of trying to poison the others. The pardoner in a similar aspect is guilty of poisoning the audience.
He invokes the thoughts of repentance in his listeners for his greed in obtaining money, just as the poisoner poisons his friends. Moreover, he states that the two young men plotting to murder the third, intending to satisfy their own avarice, were destined to receive their due in the end. He implies that, if the audience does not repent by buying indulgences, they will, no matter hat happens, be punished for their sins. The pardoner is motivated by greed, meanwhile his is fooling the audience into realizing their own faults and gaining personal wealth by selling false relics. Conclusively, the pardoner implies throughout his entire sermon that the men were punished for their evil greed. By entrancing the audience and enticing them to repent, the pardoner is committing the equivalent of what he deems sinful.
The pardoner preaches Greed is the root of all evil, as avarice is his only objective. Lastly, the pardoner looks to satisfy his own corrupt intentions by selling pardons for money. The moral of the story is that love of money causes corruption and death, all of which the pardoner knows to well..