What do Macbeth and his wife have in common with the villainous characters in "The Pardoner's Tale" from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales?

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What an intriguing question!  Let's begin with the Pardoner's tale characters.  There is really nothing at all likeable about these three.  They are drunken sots seeking vengeance against Death for taking so many of their friends.  They are greedy, loud, impolite, disrespectful to their elders, and murderous.  Directed by the elderly man they meet on the way, they meet "Death" under a tree in the form of gold.  Completely distracted from their original goal of "killing Death," they now are quite taken with the money and their share of it.  As a result, they each plot the death of the others in order to increase their share of the loot.  Consequently, they all die and no one gets any money.

Macbeth, on the other hand, begins his tale as a noble and honorable character.  He is a respected warrior.  He is a loyal subject to the King.  It is the seed of ambition which destroys him and his reputation.  He and his wife (who can not do the deed because Duncan reminds her of her own father...she has respect for her elders) kill the King in order to bring the witches' prophecy to fruition. Like the characters in the Pardoner's tale, once he gains the crown, Macbeth loses sight of all else except securing the throne for generations to come. With this in mind, he begins to plot the murder of all those who might get in his way of this plan.  Banquo and Fleance are the first two targets as the witches foretold that Banquo would not be King, but his sons and their sons would be kings.

Ultimately, the characteristics the Macbeths have in common with the characters of the Pardoner's Tale include greed, ruthlessness, evil, and murderous tendancies.