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How many layers of irony can you identify in "The Pardoner's Tale"?

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jessthecelebrity | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 19, 2012 at 12:31 AM via iOS

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How many layers of irony can you identify in "The Pardoner's Tale"?

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amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted December 31, 2012 at 8:55 PM (Answer #1)

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Irony permeates Chaucer's tale here.  First, the prologue to the tale basically sets up one of the greatest ironies - the Pardoner's hypocrisy.  As a high-ranking member of the church, the Pardoner is abusing the trust of the people for personal gain.  This, however, he freely admits to his co-travelers, another instancw of irony, as one would not expect him to admit it!

Another example of irony is in the party-goers assumption that they can catch and kill Death, an abstract concept personified in the tale.  The old man, who ironically wants death, can only lead the drunkards to a tree under which they find a wealth of gold.

One would think that the gold split three ways would be enought for them, but the older two devise a plan to kill the younger one and take his share while the younger one does the same.  Ironically, both plans work.

The final irony?  All the men find Death, in the form of greed.

As if that were not enough, the Pardoner then, after his tale is through, invites the listeners to give him money to save them from this same end.  They already know his ruse, yet he tries it anyway.  Of course, the Pardoner ends up shamed but not daunted.

How many layers is that?  I count six or seven!

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