Analyze how Chaucer builds the Pardoner's character so he seems blissfully unaware of how others see him, using "The Prologue," the "Pardoner's Prologue" and the "Pardoner's Tale" in The Canterbury...

Analyze how Chaucer builds the Pardoner's character so he seems blissfully unaware of how others see him, using "The Prologue," the "Pardoner's Prologue" and the "Pardoner's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales.

Chaucer's Pardoner seems blissfully unaware of how he is perceived by others. Chaucer shows what he is, what he is supposed to be, what he thinks he is, and how he is perceived by others.

"Many writers create characters who are blissfully unaware of how they are perceived by others. One of the most complex examples of this is Chaucer's Pardoner. In one character we see a complex mix of what he is, what he is supposed to be, what he thinks he is, and how he is perceived by others."

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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To answer this question, it is necessary to establish that the Pardoner is "blissfully unaware" of how he is perceived, and I don't see this as an accurate analysis. He certainly is unconcerned about how he is perceived, but he also seems perfectly aware. Let's explore and find out what case, if any, can be made for his being "blissfully unaware."

The most relevant part of the narrator's description of the Pardoner in the "General Prologue" is that he wears his hair long and let's it fall in ungroomed clumps down his back. He wears no clerical hood, only the clerical cap of his order. This is very significant to understanding the Pardoner because there were strict codes of dress and grooming general to England and specific to the many clerical orders. Monks and friars, etc, (1) had to wear  their hair short; (2) had to wear their hoods in public; (3) had to wear their skull caps under their hoods. The Pardoner knowingly and deliberately, without any concern for the breach of protocol or the opinion of others, violates each of these.

Dishevel, save his cap, he rode all bare.
Such glaring eyen had he, as an hare. ["glaring" here means deliberate showy, flagrant disregard]

In the "Pardoner's Prologue," he delivers a treatise on his way of life and means of conning "sinners" to make his living. He gives every detail of what he sells, what he says the items are, and what they really are. Today, we might say he gives full disclosure. This shows he has as much audacity and conniving as he has flagrant disregard and showiness, because anyone with any moral guilt would try to disguise what he did and make it look worthy even though it is not.

Thus can I preach against the same vice
Which that I use, and that is avarice.
[...]
I preache nothing but for covetise [gain wealth]. (Pardoner, "Pardoner's Prologue")

Later, after he tells his tale and suggests the audience come confess their sins and buy pardons, he confirms his audacity and "glaring" by having the nerve to think their fear of spiritual consequences might outweigh their disgust with him after his full disclosure.

Paraventure there may fall one or two
Down of his horse, and break his neck in two.
Look, what a surety is it to you all,
That I am in your fellowship y-fall, (Pardoner, "Pardoner's Tale")

"Nay, nay," quoth he, "then have I Christe's curse!
[...]
Thou wouldest make me kiss thine olde breech,
And swear it were a relic of a saint, (Hoste, "Pardoner's Tale")

It may be possible to analyze this aspect of the Pardoner's prologue and tale as showing he is "blissfully unaware" except for the contradiction of his "glaring." It might be said that he has no awareness of the rules of his religious order, thus has no awareness of how his breach of protocol is perceived by others, but the narrator plainly knows he does. It might be said that he has so little social and moral awareness that he truly does not know it is ill advised to publicly confess one's unscrupulous or criminal activity! It might be said that he is so foolishly unperceptive that he can't see that those who heard his prologue would never accept his services or his trinkets.

This analysis could depict him as "blissfully unaware," yet the contradictions still present a strong obstacle to this reading. The fact that the narrator identifies him as one knowingly and flagrantly disregarding what is required and right makes an analysis of a "glaring" disregard of propriety much more defensible.

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