Compare and contrast the common theme in Everyman to Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale."

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Unlike Everyman, the characters in “The Pardoner’s Tale” and the Pardoner himself do not come to any sort of internal revelation that results in a significant change in their perceptions and actions.

The Pardoner starts out as a greedy, selfish church official, and he ends up as a greedy,...

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Unlike Everyman, the characters in “The Pardoner’s Tale” and the Pardoner himself do not come to any sort of internal revelation that results in a significant change in their perceptions and actions.

The Pardoner starts out as a greedy, selfish church official, and he ends up as a greedy, selfish church official. He even publicly proclaims his own greed early in his tale:

I preach for nothing but for greed of gain.

He then goes on to tell a tale of greed and bloodthirsty violence. The characters in this tale learn nothing from their faults—in fact, they all die miserably as a result of their faults. Then, amazingly, he tries to lure the traveling pilgrims into paying him for his forgiveness:

If there be be one among you that is willing

to have my absolution for a shilling

While Everyman is sincere in his desire for redemption, the Pardoner has no such inclination. He is thoroughly cynical, and even wants to draw others into his sinful activities. He is held up by Chaucer as an example of all that is wrong with some aspects of the Medieval church—hypocrisy, greed, and deceitfulness.

Covetousness is both the root and stuff of all I preach.

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The medieval morality play Everyman and Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale" have some similarities with regard to theme, but also have distinctions. Both plays focus on the inevitability of death and the futility of riches to help one in the afterlife. In the opening of Everyman, Everyman is enjoying his life and his riches, taking no thought of God or eternity. He learns he must give an account to his Maker and begins a quest to find someone to go with him to help him plead his case. He repents and embraces the teachings of the church, and he finds joy in Heaven. In "The Pardoner's Tale," the three rioters are drinking in a tavern and go on a quest to find and kill Death. On their way, they find treasure and end up killing each other because of greed. 

Both stories emphasize the truth that death faces all men. In the first lines of Everyman delivered by the Messenger, the Messenger states that the play will show life is not man's to keep and that man must live his life remembering that the end will come. In "The Pardoner's Tale," Death is personified, and the three rioters who seek to kill death are obviously bound to fail, as they do. 

Both stories also emphasize the futility of riches. Everyman learns that Goods will not follow him to heaven and will not plead for him before his Maker. The three rioters find that money, far from helping them in their quest to slay Death, actually brings their deaths upon them.

The two stories emphasize different points, though. Everyman seeks to explain how to get to Heaven, and Everyman learns what he must do to clear his account in God's eyes. It is meant to be a teaching tool for the Church to proclaim its doctrine of salvation. On the other hand, the Pardoner takes pains to explain that the moral of his story is that "the love of money is the root of all evil." The Pardoner is trying to sell pardons from the Pope, and if he can convince his listeners that their money is poison, that will result in more collections for him. 

The stories have similar themes, but their different purposes lead to different emphases. 

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