The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Beidler, Peter G. "Noah and the Old Man in the Pardoner's Tale." 15 (1981): 250-54.
The plague background of the Pardoner's Tale suggests that the old man was a Noah-figure to Chaucer's audienc--the good survivor of a purifying destruction.
Boenig, Robert. "Musical Irony in the Pardoner's Tale." 24 (1990): 253-58.
Machaut popularized an antiphonal music style during the early decades of the fourteenth century. In this music the melody line shifts between parts with great frequency and is distinguished by the different instruments playing each part. The musicians in the Pardoner's Tale play "the wrong instruments for a successful performance" (257); thus they foreshadow the lack of cooperation between the three rioters.
Braswell, Mary Flowers. "Chaucer's Palimpsest: Judas Iscariot and the Pardoner's Tale." 29 (1995): 303-10.
The story of Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Christ appears beneath the surface of the text of the Pardoner's Tale, adding an additional layer to the black Communion of the three rioters. Chaucer uses a number of details, like the association of Judas with greed, the oak tree, and the conflation of the story of Judas with that of the Wandering Jew, to add a darker level to his tale.
Collette, Carolyn P. "'Ubi peccaverant, ibi punirentur': The Oak Tree and the Pardoner's Tale." 19 (1984): 39-45.
Throughout the Old Testament, the oak tree is associated with death and with choice. When the three rioters find the gold, they must choose between God and money, life and death.
Dean, Christopher. "Salvation, Damnation and the Role of the Old Man in the Pardoner's Tale." 3 (1968): 44-49.
By regarding the story of the three revelers as an exemplum, one separates the character of the old man from the Pardoner. The old man, who gives the sternest of the three warnings the revelers receive, can then be shown to represent two sides of God--mercy and justice.
Dean, James. "Spiritual Allegory and Chaucer's Narrative Style: Three Test Cases." 18 (1984): 273-87.
Although Chaucer rarely develops allegory to the fullest extent, he creates shadings of allegory that deepen his works. Such shadings can be found in the Friar's, Pardoner's, and Canon's Yeoman's Tales.
Dias-Ferreira, Julia. "Another Portuguese Analogue of Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale." 11 (1977): 258-60.
The oral circulation of stories like the Pardoner's Tale can be confirmed by this additional Portuguese example, provided in full. Its date and its relationship to Chaucer's tale are uncertain.
Ebin, Lois. "Chaucer, Lydgate, and the 'Myrie tale.'" 13 (1979): 316-35.
Chaucer and the Host generate different definitions of the qualities of a good tale, and their definitions differ from Lydgate's perception. The Host operates under the definition that good stories compel the audience's attention and entertain. Chaucer seems, however, to operate under a different definition, one that examines the skill of the story-teller. This concern appears most clearly in the Reeve's Tale and the Man of Law's Tale. Chaucer further develops his concern with writing by connecting rhetorical skill to the intent of the story-teller as in the Merchant's, Squire's, Franklin's, and Pardoner's Tales. The Host's response to Melibee raises the question of multiple possible meanings. The Parson's Tale suggests an additional element of a good tale--audience benefit or edification. In Siege of Thebes, Lydgate suggests that a good tale both entertains and edifies. Lydgate moves away from his sources in order to emphasize virtues that the ruling class would imitate and to propound the power of words over the power of the sword.
Fehrenbacher, Richard W. "'A yeerd enclosed al aboute': Literature and History in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 29 (1994): 134-48.
The reference to Jack Straw suggests the tenuousness of the separation between literature and history. A conversation between the literary and the historical can be traced throughout the poem, in that from the General Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale Chaucer engages issues of social conflict. From the Wife of Bath's Prologue to the Pardoner's Tale he considers the historical position of the pilgrims and the social position and power each thereby embodies. In the last section he presents Christianity as the shaping force of society. Analysis of the Nun's Priest's Tale reveals a movement away from history and then shows how writing cannot be separated from history, ultimately denying the ahistoricity of literature.
Haines, R. Michael. "Fortune, Nature, and Grace in Fragment C." 10 (1976): 220-35.
When responding to the Pardoner's Tale, the Host does not mention the gifts of Grace, because Grace brings life, but Fortune and Nature bring death. His comments do, however, suggest a unifying theme for the Canterbury Tales. In the Physician's Tale, Virginia exemplifies the gifts of both Grace and Nature. Fortune uses Apius; Grace (mis)uses Virginius who allows Virginia to remain a virgin without forcing her to commit suicide, thus helping her to avoid a mortal sin. The Physician's Tale makes the point "that one must be prepared to die by living in Grace, free from sin" (226). The Pardoner's Tale shows the subversion of Fortune's, Nature's, and Grace's gifts. The Pardoner's three sins, gluttony, gambling, and swearing, are ultimately profanations of Nature, Fortune, and Grace respectively. The three revelers also pervert these gifts. Chaucer treats these gifts in the Man of Law's Tale, the Second Nun's Tale, the Prioress's Tale, and the Monk's Tale as well.
Halverson, John. "Chaucer's Pardoner and the Progress of Criticism." 4 (1970): 184-202.
The Pardoner's motivation for his tale has been hotly debated; the question of his drunkenness and of the strained relationship between him and the other pilgrims is closely related to his motivation. Critics argue that the Pardoner merely attempts to con the pilgrims or that he is demonstrating his pride in his ability to defraud. His overblown self-descriptions, however, become dubious, but the "benediction" presents a difficulty for this view. Early critics understood the Pardoner's impotence as a representation of his spiritual state. Now, critics more carefully examine indications that the Pardoner and the Summoner are homosexual. Other scholars have attempted to demonstrate that the Pardoner has some orthodox tendencies, but he remains a disgusting character. If readers take his self-descriptions at face value, they perceive that he has committed the unforgivable sin--rejecting God--so he experiences "living death and present hell" (192). From the beginning, the Pardoner seems to focus on death, and his tale demonstrates a search for death. The ambiguity of the old man, however, has posed a problem for this interpretation. Various critics have suggested that he represents only an old man, Death himself, the Wandering Jew, and the vetus homo (old man of sin), or all of them at once. Readers must remember, however, that they know about the Pardoner only from what he himself says, and readers can assume that he is aware that he has a relationship to those around him. His "song" suggests a resemblance to Faux Semblant in Roman de la Rose and may show an attempt to manipulate his audience in order to play a trick on them. The Pardoner seems to wear a mask which serves both to protect him and to release malice while satisfying his ego. The Pardoner's playfulness escapes the Host who responds in anger, thus thwarting the Pardoner's desire to make the pilgrims look foolish and demonstrating that the Pardoner has overestimated the sophistication of his audience. At its root, however, the tale is a meditation on death which strongly affects the Pardoner and darkly colors his tale.
Hamel, Mary, and Charles Merrill. "The Analogues of the Pardoner's Tale and a New African Version." 26 (1991): 175-83.
This essay offers a new classification of the analogues to the Pardoner's Tale, as well as a newly discovered West African analogue that is a sophisticated retelling of the old folktale.
Hanson, Thomas B. "Chaucer's Physician as Storyteller and Moralizer." 7 (1972): 132-39.
The Physician's Tale demonstrates that Chaucer's description of him in the General Prologue is accurate: the Physician knows little about the Bible. In the tale, plot and moralization compete for readers' attention. The Physician opens his tale by showing Virginia to be a paragon of virtue. The Physician continues, adding a great deal of Christian material to his source. The epilogue, however, passes over Virginia, making her more a victim of extremes than a martyr. By suggesting that the spirit of the law is more to be followed than the letter, the Physician's Tale joins the Franklin's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale.
Harrington, David V. "Narrative Speed in the Pardoner's Tale." 3 (1968): 50-59.
The lack of transitions in the narrative of the Pardoner's Tale causes readers to miss the audacity of the Pardoner's telling about his own fraudulent activities. Readers both applaud the moral statements of the Pardoner's sermon and feel a growing disgust for him, but because of the speed at which the tale unfolds, have no time to stop and consider what they are reading. The poet uses rhetorical devices--asyndeton, hyperbaton--to denote hurried movement. The seeming disjointedness of the elements in the Pardoner's sermon contributes to this sense of a quickly unfolding narrative. Readers then, should not consider the Pardoner's Tale with an eye to the strength of the contradictions, but instead, focus on the degree to which this tale reflects a truth of the human condition--that all people experience similar contradictions between their beliefs and their behavior.
Hatcher, Elizabeth R. "Life Without Death: The Old Man in Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale." 9 (1975): 246-52.
The three revelers' search is a portrayal of the "rash wish" theme (247). The Old Man presents the fulfillment of that wish: he illustrates life after the revelers defeat death. That the revelers pay so little attention to the Old Man indicates that they have not considered the results of their desire. Finally, the Old Man instructs readers in contemptus mundi.
Higuchi, Masayuki. "On the Integration of the Pardoner's Tale." 22 (1987): 161-69.
Every text has an "integrator," a word, phrase, or morpheme on which it turns. In the Pardoner's Tale, "deeth" is the integrator, connecting the description of the Pardoner, the prologue to his tale, and his tale.
Ireland, Richard W. "Chaucer's Toxicology." 29 (1994): 74-92.
Both the Pardoner's Tale and the Parson's Tale refer to poisoning. Medieval Christians associated poison with sin as do the Book of Vices and Virtues and the Ancrene Riwle. In the Leges Henrici Primi poisoning is associated with witchcraft. In the Pardoner's Tale Chaucer connects poisoning to the devil, although the young man obtains the poison by merely visiting an apothecary. The swelling identified with poisoning is often presented as beyond the bounds of medical knowledge and is, therefore, attributable to the devil. The Parson also discusses poisoning as an abortive method. John Myrc's Instructions for Parish Priests and the Ancrene Riwle both refer to such activity as sin, again linking poisoning to the devil. Abortive activity was also considered a matter for civil court, though the general absence of such cases indicates the difficulty lawyers had with them. Chaucer uses poisoning in the Pardoner's Tale to connect true Christianity to false religion and the dangers inherent in such falsehood.
Joseph, Gerhard. "The Gifts of Nature, Fortune, and Grace in the Physician's, Pardoner's, and Parson's Tales." 9 (1975): 237-45.
The Host's reference to the "gifts of Fortune and Nature" links what seem to be the two sections of Group VI (237). The medieval mind believed that though Nature gave physical and mental abilities, Fortune determined circumstances. Virginia's tragedy, therefore, results from her natural gifts. Virginia's response to the announcement that she must die demonstrates the gift of grace. Comparison between the Pardoner's Tale and the Physician's Tale indicates the importance of grace.
Justman, Stewart. "Literal and Symbolic in the Canterbury Tales." 14 (1980): 199-214.
Medievalists accepted analogies as reality. The Wife of Bath and characters in the Shipman's Tale twist this traditional relationship, thereby undermining traditional ways of understanding. Turning a work such as the Song of Songs that is outside of social boundaries into symbol returns it to the social order. But re-literalizing such a text threatens authority. Chaucer employs the theme of counterfeiting or literalizing symbols in the Merchant's Tale. The Miller's, Pardoner's, and Nun's Priest's Tales also work to subvert authority. The "quitings" between characters are part of a pattern of sublimation. The action between the pilgrims is both physical and symbolic, however, so it does not completely destroy social order. Puns are part of Chaucer's questioning of authority in language.
Khinoy, Stephan A. "Inside Chaucer's Pardoner?" 6 (1972): 255-67.
Readers may explore the Pardoner as a problem of language use and its power. By accepting Harry Bailly's proposal to tell tales as a way to pass the time while travelling, the clergy accepted a proposal which, by its nature, required them to participate in lies. Thus, when the Nun's Priest tells his tale, he requests that the pilgrims find the nut and leave the chaff as a justification for telling a tale at all. The Pardoner, however, does not fit in with the clerical tale-tellers. Instead, he presents "art for art's sake" (258). He reverses the relationship between prologue and tale in that his immoral prologue imposes on his moral sermon in order to make the pilgrims the inversion itself. The way the Pardoner tells his tale causes his audience to pay more attention to the outside (chaff) of the tale than the inside (nut). Thus, the Pardoner takes a position opposite that of Reason with regard to language. Reason asserts that divine will names things. The Pardoner suggests that names are merely human convention. Though the external appearance of the old man is uninviting, Chaucer uses him to suggest that meaning and value are not imposed, but intrinsic.
Koban, Charles. "Hearing Chaucer Out: The Art of Persuasion in the Wife of Bath's Tale." 5 (1971): 225-39.
In oral delivery, Chaucer found a way to contemplate human difficulties and to educate his audience. In addition to plot, exemplary materials not integrally related to the plot indicate that Chaucer intended his audience to think about larger issues. In addition, precise statements of thought indicate "controlling ideas or problems" (227). Readers may see the Canterbury Tales in blocks that develop larger themes. By examining the Pardoner's Tale, we discover the oral method that Chaucer probably used. The Wife of Bath's Tale demonstrates how Chaucer combines plot, thought, and examples to persuade his audience. Chaucer organizes these materials in a way that indicates an oral delivery as opposed to a written one. He also focuses on the relations between men and women (human problem) instead of the comic elements. Such a focus also makes readers ignore the question of whether or not the teller fits the tale. When examined structurally, the materials which present models to the audience slow the progress of the plot, thus allowing readers/ hearers to think about the greater human problems presented. The young knight's quest, then, becomes the individual's search for purpose, dignity, and self-determination.
Lee, Brian S. "The Position and Purpose of the Physician's Tale." 22 (1987): 141-60.
Chaucer alters his source material for the Physician's Tale so that what was a pagan tale becomes a Christian exemplum. Comparing the tale to Gower's Tale of Virginia and Chaucer's Legend of Lucrece shows that Gower's tale has a political agenda more than a moral one and that Chaucer has altered both the source materials so that Virginia is more active and points more toward Christian truth. Chaucer presents the Physician's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale as two contrasting exempla, one depicting good, the other evil. The Physician's Tale should be read immediately after the Franklin's Tale because the Physician's Tale presents one possible outcome of Aurelius's proposition to Dorigen. Chaucer constructs the Physician's Tale so that Virginia is passive, in part because she is so virtuous, compared to Alisoun in the Miller's Tale. In the tale Virginia is contrasted to Apius, who is presented as purely evil, but he envies Virginia's goodness. Love cures envy, and in the tale, Virginius represents that love.
Luengo, A. "Audience and Exempla in the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale." 11 (1976): 1-10.
The Pardoner presents two different kinds of stories to the pilgrims, alternating between exempla directed towards members of the lower class and moral anecdotes directed towards the pilgrims. He indicates shifts between one type of story and another by his form of address, and carefully chooses his words and content to appeal to the more "gentil" pilgrims (5). By carefully choosing a work from John of Salisbury's Policraticus, the Pardoner shows that he believes his audience to be somewhat educated. To make his tale more palatable to his audience, the Pardoner also eliminates exclamatio and most scatological imagery.
Merix, Robert P. "Sermon Structure in the Pardoner's Tale." 17 (1983): 235-49.
The specific sermon form previously thought to apply to all late medieval sermons only applies to the sermon a candidate for a Master's of Theology would give. Public sermons were much less fixed in form. Careful examination of the Pardoner's Tale reveals that it follows the sermon form, uses similar rhetorical techniques, and has the same relationship of theme to form as most medieval sermons.
Miller, Clarence H., and Roberta Bux Bosse. "Chaucer's Pardoner and the Mass." 6 (1972): 171-84.
Chaucer characterizes the Pardoner in such a way as to make him a deformed image of the Mass. Readers can examine the Pardoner's Tale as an Amalarian allegory. The Pardoner's tavern vices are all related to the Eucharist, and the abuses of the mass in which the three revelers participate results in a medieval Black Mass. Throughout his tale, however, the Pardoner does not recognize how the Passion connects these vices. The end the rioters suffer is a perverted reflection of Christ's Passion.
Nitecki, Alicia K. "The Convention of the Old Man's Lament in the Pardoner's Tale." 16 (1981): 76-84.
The three rioters treat the old man in accordance with the traditional methods of treating the elderly. Traditionally the old either wait eagerly for death or dread it passionately. Chaucer changes the position of the old man: he cannot die because a corrupt world rejects him. The old man, then, should act as a warning figure, a demonstration of the horror of life without death.
Noll, Dolores L. "The Serpent and the Sting in the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale." 17 (1982): 159-62.
The Pardoner identifies himself with Satan through serpent imagery, and though his own relics cannot cure sheep, the Eucharist, which the Pardoner seems to reject, is the antidote for Death, the ultimate sting of Satan.
Pelen, Marc M. "Murder and Immortality in Fragment VI (C) of the Canterbury Tales: Chaucer's Transformation of Theme and Image from the Roman de la Rose." 29 (1994): 1-25.
The Pardoner's Tale and the Physician's Tale oppose each other, but together they present "refraction of a more urgent poetic truth" (4). Ultimately the argument of both tales is the grace of God that is beyond the circumscription of words. In both tales, Chaucer responds to earlier legends, discussing murder and immorality. Such considerations derive from Chaucer's veneration of themes and images in the Roman de la Rose. The Physician's Tale also reacts to portions of the Roman de la Rose, and borrows a number of images from it. In the Roman de la Rose, readers recognize the contrasting voices of Genius, Reason, and Nature, just as they identify the opposing voices of the Physician and the Pardoner. In both works the full meaning of the poetry is outside of the dialogue between characters and beyond that between the writer and his audience.
Rhodes, James F. "Motivation in Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale: Winner Take Nothing." 17 (1982): 40-61.
The Pardoner is not completely a sinner, incapable of finding salvation. He seems to have a strange duality of personality that appears when he condemns the very sins he commits. Examination of the Pardoner's response to the Wife of Bath reveals parallels between them. For example both pilgrims seek a sense of belonging on the pilgrimage. The Wife's suffering does not seem to have diminished her desire for life and play. The Pardoner's assertions about fulfilling all his desires, on the other hand, ring hollow, and he fails to realize that his tale clearly reveals his façade. The Pardoner does not attempt to sell his relics to the pilgrims, but tries to fit in at the level of play. Preaching satisfies him because he derives a sense of power from it. The result of this role is that he plays the part of divine pardoner, promising his audiences that God's grace is for sale and refusing to recognize the suffering of Christ, whom Christians should imitate. Ultimately, the Pardoner cannot "play" with the other pilgrims because he cannot relinquish his professional identity. The Pardoner appears in his tale through the old man who, like the Pardoner, tests Christians to expose the weakness of their faith. His pious exterior conceals an evil heart. Like the Wandering Jew, the old man seems incapable of accepting the resurrection. The response of the pilgrims at the end of the tale draws the Pardoner from material to spiritual and re-establishes the community that his tale would destroy.
Ruggiers, Paul G. "Platonic Forms in Chaucer." 17 (1983): 366-82.
Chaucer builds his poetry around four different topics, "1) eating and drinking; 2) sexuality and love; 3) play and seriousness; and 4) the making of art" (367). Drinking has religious overtones of suffering, and the drinking image appears in the Reeve's, Pardoner's, Man of Law's, and Franklin's Tales as well as in Troilus and Criseyde and the House of Fame. Chaucer treats love in four different ways as seen in Troilus and Criseyde, and in the Miller's , Reeve's, and Second Nun's Tales. Furthermore the Canterbury Tales as a whole experiments with the theme of play, examining play from a number of different points of view. Chaucer also investigates what it is to create a literary work, a theme particularly present in the Tale of Sir Thopas and the Tale of Melibee.
Stevens, Martin, and Kathleen Falvey. "Substance, Accident, and Transformations: A Reading of the Pardoner's Tale." 17 (1982): 142-58.
In the Pardoner's Tale, Chaucer deals with Sophism. The exemplum shows the Pardoner as a sinner. Ultimately, the tale makes death out of eternal life. The tavern situation in which the Pardoner tells his tale parodies the opening of the Canterbury Tales and the pilgrimage itself. Readers can trace the imagery of transformation from life to death throughout the tale. The tale also contains elements of the Black Mass. These elements reduce Christ's sacrifice to the merely physical.
Toole, William B. "Chaucer's Christian Irony: The Relationship of Character and Action in the Pardoner's Tale." 3 (1968): 37-43.
The three revelers' obsession with the physical blinds them to spiritual truth. Ironically, they do not realize that the warnings they receive from the child and the tavernkeeper are spiritual, not physical. In their confused, intoxicated state, they truly believe that Death is a powerful physical being whom the three of them can overcome. Their physicality causes them to invert the Crucifixion by seeking to preserve their physical bodies by physical means. The three revelers become an unholy trinity, demonstrating the facets of cupidity, a sin which causes their destruction.
West, Michael D. "Dramatic Time, Setting, and Motivation in Chaucer." 2 (1968): 147-87.
Because Chaucer chooses to focus on other elements of his stories, the analogues to his tales often surpass his in realistic elements. In the Merchant's Tale, the garden setting causes the tale to function in both the worlds of allegory and fabliau, giving the reader a sense of unreality while at the same time leaving the reader with the idea that marriage is "sheer hell" (176). The same elements operate in the Prioress's Tale. Chaucer significantly changes the timing of events from that in his source in order to satisfy the demands of the story. These changes, however, do not coincide with what the reader recognizes as reality. The Pardoner's Tale also demonstrates Chaucer's lack of concern for realistic action in his story. Chaucer's thieves do a number of strange things which thieves do not usually do, like getting three bottles of wine, but forgetting the bread. Unrealities also occur in Troilus and Criseyde. These actions demonstrate the overwhelming greed of his characters. The mutilation of realistic detail draws his audience into his stories, thus making the tales every bit as effective as the sources, but on their own terms.