Irony is, generally, the difference between what you expect to happen and what really happens. In the case of Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale," from The Canterbury Tales, dramatic irony is used.
Dramatic irony (the most important type for literature) involves a situation in a narrative in which the reader knows something about present or future circumstances that the character does not know. In that situation, the character acts in a way we recognize to be grossly inappropriate to the actual circumstances, or the character expects the opposite of what the reader knows that fate holds in store, or the character anticipates a particular outcome that unfolds itself in an unintentional way.
Interestingly, the Pardoner is a servant of the Roman Catholic Church. Supposedly a man who is to see to the needs of Jesus' followers on earth, the Pardoner is a crook that takes advantage of the very people he has been called to watch over.
After revealing himself to be a very wicked man, the Pardoner...
(The entire section contains 1124 words.)