3 Review What three Medieval dogmas does the Wife oppose? How does the Wife of Bath support the anti-feminism that she rails against?Compare and contrast the Prioress and the Wife of Bath.What important concepts—i.e., important for ENGL 203—originated during the Medieval period?
4 Three Dogmas Authority > experience Man > woman Spirit/mind > bodyPOINT: The Wife supports the exact opposites of these relationships.
5 Key ConceptsLife as a pilgrimage to the heavenly or celestial JerusalemChivalryCourtly love (relevant to the Wife’s “Tale”)
6 Summary of Key Terms and Concepts Fabliau—bawdy storyHeroic couplets—iambic pentameter couplets with end rhymeExemplum—illustration, esp. in a sermonSeven Deadly Sins (see next slide)Unpardonable sin—homosexualityEunuch—“a gelding or a mare”Vetus homo vs. novus homo::Pardoner vs. ParsonKenosis (re. words, relics, Eucharist)—emptyingTransubstantiation—bread and wine body and blood of ChristContemputus mundi—contempt of the worldColocogathia—equivalency between inner virtue and outer appearance (Pardoner vs. the Old Man)Black Death/Bubonic Plague—early —killed 25 million, 1/3 of Europe's population (see two slides ahead)
8 Black DeathThomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth (San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1988), page 125:Factoid: “Almost half the people of Florence died within a three-month period.”Interpretation: “In response to the plague and to other social disturbances of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, two directions of development can be identified—one toward a religious redemption out of the tragic world, the other toward greater control of the physical world to escape its pain and to increase its utility to human society. From these two tendencies the two dominant cultural communities of recent centuries were formed: the believing religious community and the secular community with its new scientific knowledge and its industrial powers of exploiting the natural world.”
9 First Mention of the Pardoner He is first mentioned in connection with the Miller and the Reeve.Therefore, we know that he is a rascal.We expect him to tell a fabliau.
10 Homology Summoner:Pardoner::justice:mercy OR Summoner:justice::Pardoner:mercyThe Summoner summons people to justice.The Pardoner sells relics and pardons, which represent divine forgiveness, mercy, love.
11 Eschatology The study of the last things, which are the following: DeathJudgmentHeaven (grace)HellJudgment and grace are two of the “last things”; therefore, it makes sense for the characters who represent those things to appear at the conclusion of the “General Prologue.”Of course, there is irony in the fact that base characters are associated with such solemn concepts.
12 Homosexual?The Pardoner is probably in a homosexual relationship with the Summoner.The Pardoner is effeminate.The Summoner has a deeper voice, possibly because of VD.In any case, the Pardoner perverts human love the same way he perverts divine love.
13 Pardoner’s Perversion of Love He and the Summoner sing, “Come hither, love, to me!”Our translation: “Come hither, love, come home!”The song exalts physical love, which puts the Pardoner in the same league as the Squire, Prioress, Wife, and Friar.The shrine to which the pilgrims are traveling suggests the divine love of which the Knight, Parson, and Plowman are the best exemplars.POINT: The pilgrims are affected by two basic types of love: spiritual love that summons in a positive way and physical love that warps the personality.
14 More on the SongThe duet clearly refers to carnal love and shows how far he has deviated from the ideal of charity and divine love.This is in keeping with the lecherousness that relates to mention of a hare, a goat, and a horse (lines 699, 704, and 708).
15 The Pardoner Is a Eunuch The Pardoner’s physical deformity vs. Matthew 19:12:“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”
16 POINTThe Pardoner is supposed to be the kind of eunuch who has made himself so for the kingdom of heaven.This is the kind of eunuch who has cut himself off from temporal pleasures: castration being symbolic of cutting away the vetus homo, old man, so that the novus homo, new man, might live.Instead, he is a eunuch only in the physical sense of mangled sexual organs.
17 Ephesians 4:22-24“Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
18 Old Man vs. New Man Old man: the flesh and its lusts The new man: the spirit of reason by which these are subdued.Adam:old man::Christ:new man[Review: “Rood”: Adam is to the tree of knowledge as Christ is to the rood tree.]
19 Points In the Pauline sense, the Parson is a new man. The Pardoner is an old man.The Pardoner’s physical deformity is a sign of his spiritual deformity: he perverts human love in the same way that he distorts divine love. As with the body, so with the soul: colocogathia.The Pardoner has cut himself off from the charity and the good works that the Parson manifests.Thus, ironically, he is exactly like the young men in the tale that he creates: he is a young old man.
20 The Pardoner’s Impenitence He sins willfully and knowingly: “‘And thus I preach against the very vice / I make my living out of—avarice” (“Prologue,” lines )In other words, like the rioters he creates, he seeks false treasure.
21 Jesus’s Advice“‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’”
22 Review What else can you connect with this quotation? What should you do when you see such a connection?
23 The Pardoner’s Use of Language POINT: The Pardoner deconstructs the epistemological structure of the Middle Ages by emptying out the three main types of signs.Kenosis = emptying.Source: David Williams, The Canterbury Tales: A Literary Pilgrimage (Boston: Twayne, 1987).
24 Three Categories of Signs Language = wordsIcon = relicsEucharist = communion
25 Words They are arbitrary signs. They are not the things they represent.Note: The Pardoner tricks people by voiding words of their signifying power.This is kenosis: emptying.
26 RelicsThey are supposed to be part of the thing they represent and to channel its power.But Medieval theory says that a false relic does not have any effect.The pilgrims are traveling to a true relic: the remains of Thomas à Becket.But the Pardoner sells phony relics, which have no ability to convey power. His sheep’s bones are as worthless as the “hogs’ turd” that Harry Bailey mentions at line 499.
27 Eucharist/Transubstantiation The bread and wine ARE the things they represent: Christ’s body and blood.Williams 87: “Through this transubstantiation the accidents, or visible and tangible aspects of the bread and wine, remain while the substance, or essence, is changed to that of the Divinity.”
28 The Pardoner’s Take on the Eucharist “‘These cooks that strain and grindAnd bray in mortars, transubstantiateGod’s gifts into a flavour on a plate,To please a lecherous palate.’” (lines 76-79)In addition, one rioter is sent for bread and wine. This wine brings death; in communion, bread and wine slay death.
29 Summary The Pardoner empties words of their meaning: he is a liar. He empties relics of their meaning: he sells fake ones.He empties communion of its meaning: imagery of the Eucharist relates to lechery, gluttony, and death, not to life and spiritual well-being.
30 Parallels Words:truth::intellect:reality::sexuality:fertility POINT: Each dyad is a disconnection in the Pardoner’s case.
31 The Host’s Attack “‘Now by St Helen and the Holy Land I wish I had your ballocks in my handInstead of relics in a reliquarium;Have them cut off and I will help to carry ’em.We’ll have them shrined for you in a hog’s turd.’”(“Tale,” lines )Implication: “Your relics and your theories are as worthless as your testicles.”
32 The Pardoner’s “Tale” It is a sermon in two parts: An invective against P.I.G.L.A.W.E.An exemplum about three riotous young menPOINT: The Pardoner reverses the usual order: exemplum invective. He instead uses the exemplum to frame the invective.
33 Should We Believe Anything He Says? Two possibilities:An evil man cannot speak the truth.An evil man CAN speak the truth. The WILL is corrupted, but the intellect is sound. (I will tell you later why I believe that this is the better answer.)“‘For though I am a wholly vicious manDon’t think I can’t tell moral tales. I can!’”(“Prologue,” lines )
34 Discussion QuestionsWhere might the Pardoner be when he tells his tale? What is the significance of setting IN the tale?Does the Pardoner’s self-revelation violate dramatic law? Why would he reveal himself to the other pilgrims?How would you characterize the rioters? What warnings do they receive?How does the Pardoner characterize the Old Man? Who IS he?At the end of the tale, is the Pardoner totally culpable? He says, “‘That, sirs, is how I preach,’” etc. at lines Why does he then try to sell relics and pardons to his fellow travelers?
35 Question #1Where might the Pardoner be when he tells his tale? What is the significance of setting IN the tale?The Pardoner may be in a tavern (“Prologue,” line 130), and his tale is set partly in a tavern.The Host is a tavern owner. See “Tale,” line 8: The tavern is the devil’s home; therefore, the Host must be the devil.The Pardoner tweaks the Host for mixing cheap wine with the good stuff (“Tale,” lines 100ff.).Swearing is condemned (“Tale,” line 169); this is also one of the Host’s vices.Upon finishing the tale, the Pardoner accuses the Host of being “‘the most enveloped of you all in sin’” (“Tale,” line 486).Setting of the tale is Flanders, a place noted for hard drinking (drunkenness = spiritual death). It is plague time. So we have both physical AND spiritual death in this tale. See
36 Question #2Does the Pardoner’s self-revelation violate dramatic law? Why would he reveal himself to the other pilgrims?Self-revelation: “For my exclusive purpose is to win / And not at all to castigate their sin” (“Prologue,” lines 77-78).The Pardoner is a rogue, and the other pilgrims expect a fabliau.He has nothing to lose by opening up—they are obviously aware that he is a crook.But he has a lot to gain: showing how he preaches to an inferior audience (“yokels,” he calls them in the “Prologue,” line 66) may ingratiate him with the pilgrims. Maybe he lets them in on the trick so that they will accept him.
37 Question #3How would you characterize the rioters? What warnings do they receive?Rioters: proud, impatient, discourteous.They use religious language only to swear.Selfish: they break their bond of brotherhood.Their sin is without purpose: they party just for the hell of it.Avarice leads them to commit murder.See the beginning of the “Tale”: P.I.G.L.A.W.E.Warnings: death of a friend, the Old Man.
38 Question #4 How does the Pardoner characterize the Old Man? Who IS he? The Old Man is meek and respectful.He quotes scripture, invokes God’s blessings, denies the earth (contemptus mundi).He is meek and temperate: a perfect foil to the three rioters.Irony: They are young and want life but get death. The Old man is old and hates life but cannot die.Who is he? Possibilities: Death, Old Age, the Wandering Jew, the Old Law vetus homo, just an old man.Better answer: He is what the rioters seek—death’s death but not the death of old age. Thus he is a warning: living proof of the folly of the material world, though he is also a positive example of piety and respect.
39 Question #5At the end of the tale, is the Pardoner totally culpable? He says, “‘That, sirs, is how I preach,’” etc. at lines Why does he then try to sell relics and pardons to his fellow travelers?"Noting that the Pilgrims may be under his spell, the Pardoner is said to see them as another and fatter flock of victims. Then he turns to them suddenly and tells them that this is the way he preaches to ignorant people; but they, the Pilgrims, are his friends, and he prays that they may receive Christ's pardon; he would never deceive them; consequently they are to come and kiss the relics."Source: S.G. Sedgewick, “The Progress of Chaucer’s Pardoner,” Chaucer: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. Edward Wagenknecht (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1959), pages
40 Question #5, continued And Jesu Christ, soul’s healer, aye, the leech Of every soul, grant pardon and relieve youOf sin, for that is best, I won’t deceive you.(lines )Alternatives: He is drunk, is joking, forgets his surroundings, is genuinely sincere, is moved by his own story, gets caught up in his own rhetoric, is blinded by egotism, experiences a moment of sincerity, overreaches himself?OR: The Pardoner shows signs of spiritual life: he created the Old Man; he knows the proper way to salvation; he takes the sacrament of penance seriously; even his manipulation of relics and pardons is a sign of spiritual life.POINT: The Pardoner knows where genuine salvation lies. He knows that Christ’s pardon is better than his. He is a lost soul, but he may experience a moment of genuine moral and spiritual sincerity. (This is why I noted earlier that the Pardoner has a corrupted will but an intellect that is still capable of knowing and speaking the truth.)
41 Question #5He believes in God but does not BELIEVE God. Perhaps the Pardoner longs for the forgiveness that he dispenses to others but believes to be unavailable to himself.He lacks the grace he dispenses because homosexuality was considered the unforgivable sin.So perhaps, like the Old Man in the tale that he CREATED, he understands the emptiness of worldly things and longs for death to put an end to his hollow life. END
42 Appendix: Bible Quotations Relevant to the Pardoner I Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs."I Timothy 1:4-5: "the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith." Pardoner's lack of charity.I Timothy 6:4-5: " he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain."
43 More Bible QuotationsI Timothy 2:7: “…for this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth." Another translation: "I speak the truth in Christ." Matthew 6:19-21: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."Matthew 19:12: "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
44 Final Bible QuotationEphesians 4:22-24: "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24).