July 06, 2021

#08-105: The Pardoner's Tale

engraving of an effeminate-looking man on horseback holding a large cross, with other more shadowy figures in the background
The Pardoner, by William Blake

Note: In one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, three young men want to meet and challenge Death, but they get more than they bargained for!

Get Ready: How would you react to the death of a friend?

In Lesson #08-022, I shared with my readers "The Wife of Bath's Tale," one of the 24 stories in the collection by Geoffrey Chaucer called The Canterbury Tales. Let's look at another one of the more popular ones.

"The Pardoner's Tale" is told, naturally, by a "pardoner," which is an unordained churchman licensed (in this case, fraudulently) to forgive people of their sins in the name of the Church. This pardoner uses his position to swindle gullible people out of their money, and tells his tale in a shameless attempt to scare the other pilgrims into buying his pardons, called "indulgences."

The tale begins with three young men carousing in a tavern. They are committing four sins that the Pardoner claims to consider the most serious, and that he constantly preaches against: drinking, gambling, gluttony, and blasphemy. As the party continues, the three hear the toll of a bell indicating that someone is being buried. Upon inquiring, they learn that the deceased is a friend of theirs. He has been taken by a "sneaky thief" called Death, and they swear to find this Death and avenge their friend.

As they set out, they encounter an old man who tells them that he himself had entreated Death to take him, but Death refused. When the three men ask where this Death might be found, the old man tells them that Death is waiting at the foot of a particular oak tree, and they set off to find it.

When they reach the spot, they find a rich treasure of gold coins, and forget all about their mission to find Death. Since it's late in the day, they will sleep by the trove overnight, and split the coins up in the morning.

But first, someone needs to go to town for food and wine. They draw straws, and the youngest of them gets the short straw and sets off. While he's gone, the other two plot to overpower him and stab him to death when he returns, so they can keep his share.

The young man has his own ideas, however, and before returning puts rat poison in the wine. When he arrives, the two scoundrels stab him to death, then drink the wine--and both of them die, as well.

Thus all three "found Death."


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pardoner%27s_Tale

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. blasphemy
  2. carousing
  3. draw straws
  4. entreated
  5. fraudulently
  6. gluttony
  7. gullible
  8. swindle
  9. trove
  10. unordained

  1. credulous; willing to believe anything
  2. not officially a priest
  3. a horde of found treasure
  4. an old-fashioned way to pick someone
  5. the sin of eating too much
  6. begged
  7. having a drunken party
  8. the sin of swearing against God
  9. cheat
  10. dishonestly; not by legal means

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for July 6, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. g; 3. d; 4. f; 5. j; 6. e; 7. a; 8. i; 9. c; 10. b