The Pardoner's Tale

by John Wain

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Why is the rioters' vow to kill Death in "The Pardoner's Tale" ironic?

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When the three men first vow to kill Death there is the apparent level of verbal irony involved. After all, how exactly does one kill Death?

As the story develops, they meet an old man and ask him where to find death, and he points them to a tree where they find a pile of gold underneath. The foreshadowing here is heavy, but none of the three men make the connection then that the gold will literally bring their deaths.

Because of greed, the three men each plot to kill the other two and keep the gold for themselves, ending up in the death of all three men. This is where the real irony hits: not only do they fail to kill Death, they also end up dead in the process.

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