This article investigates the contemporary implications of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale,” focusing specifically on the parallels between the character of the Pardoner and modern-day charlatans within the Christian community. By exploring the concept of the medieval pardoner in English society, and Chaucer’s decision to include such a character in his Canterbury Tales, a larger narrative emerges that calls into question those who make blind appeals to faith during times of crisis, such as a global pandemic. Examining the descriptions of Chaucer’s Pardoner reveals a character steeped in sarcasm, fraudulence, and deceit who seems to cut against the grain of an anthology of tales that follows a group of Christians on a pilgrimage to a religious site. The entire work of The Canterbury Tales in many ways represents a “memento mori,” or a reminder that we all must die, and suggests through a collection of stories from a diverse group of pilgrims that death is the great equalizer of human beings. The Pardoner’s inherent threat to this equalizing property of death reveals a dark side of the Christian faith, and a space that Christianity holds for charlatans to enter, charlatans who peddle in false promises, and sell God as a means to cheat death. This space, of course, still exists today, though the charlatans who occupy it have taken new names. Where once stood Chaucer’s Pardoner, televangelists and mega-churches have taken his place, while relics and pardons becoming tithes and “The Prosperity Gospel.”
"What Do We Say to the God of Death?: Examining the Modern Relevance of Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale”,"
International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities: Vol. 14:
2, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/ijurca/vol14/iss2/6