In The Canterbury Tales, which two characters have evidence of sexually transmitted diseases?  

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Goeffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, implications are made against the Summoner and the Pardoner regarding their having sexually transmitted diseases. While some of these implications have been scientifically denounced (based upon limited medical knowledge during the time), critics still have found evidence that both had sexually transmitted diseases.

In regards to the Summoner, many critics have decided that he suffered from syphilis. The Summoner is described as being lecherous and his leprosy is the result of this. Unfortunately, leprosy is not sexually transmitted and is not a sign of a sexually transmitted disease. It has been suggested that Chaucer's knowledge of venereal diseases was rather limited and that lepers were ostracized in the same way as those with known sexually transmitted diseases.

As for the Pardoner, the implications can be harder to ascertain. Some researchers have stated that the alluding to the Pardoner's sexually transmitted disease exists more as a metaphor for his own spiritual corruption. Given that one could not see a person's spiritual corruptness, Chaucer gives the Pardoner physical signs which allow others to "see" his "disease."


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