Analysis of the Pardoner's Passage from the Novel The Pardoner'S Tale

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To start off with, the tone of the passage can be best described as humorous; the “Pardoner” is making a joke out of his profession and the people who believe his words. He tells the story of how he goes about his work in an orderly manner, how he establishes his position and “stirs them to devotion” (them being the audience, his followers). Instead of talking about his sermons themselves, he’s talking about how he gets people to trust them. He’s filling his listeners in on his business tactics, on how to draw customers and therefore in a way admitting the fact that he is a fraud, the fact that his “preachings” cost effort to believe in. After announcing his entrance, he showcases his seal given by the liege lord, which, the Pardoner says, helps him legitimize his performance, saving him trouble from priests and clerks. He can’t have them disturbing Christ’s holy work. The expression “Christ’s holy work” could be interpreted as satirical or sarcastic, in the sense that so far he’d explained his work as similar to putting up a show, and his newfound sincerity to the job seems too sudden to be sincere.

Continuing his story the Pardoner goes on to explain how he uses tools to help him gain the people’s trust and devotion. These tools include the “bulles” of people of importance such as bishops and cardinals, a few Latin words and a case filled with nothing more than “cloutes and bones” that will later turn into relics at the eyes of the people. The Pardoner takes the shoulder bone of a Jew’s sheep as an example of his collection - it’s his way of arguing that the people will believe just about anything with enough convincing, even if they were told an old piece of sheep bone was a relic.

The passage takes on the form of iambic pentameter, which adds to the aforementioned jocular, playful manner of the story being told. This also adds to two different aspects of the passage including the character, the idea of the Pardoner not coming off as that serious of a person, and the context of the passage itself, how the stories were being told during a tedious journey with the purpose to entertain. The “e” endings to certain words that can be found quite frequently throughout the passage also add to the element of an upbeat rhythm when read aloud.

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