A Look At The Pardoner — страница 2

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something morally wrong with that duty itself. Also, the fact that the Pardoner so openly admits his corrupt actions causes the reader to question whether this is not common practice among pardoners. The second way that Chaucer ingeniously attributed corruption to his Pardoner was though physiognomy. In Chaucer s time there was a well-known science of interpreting a man s character from a study of his features (Duino 322). Certain stereotypes concerning physical features were understood by all people of his time, so Chaucer used these stereotypes as symbolism in his work. The following passage from the general prologue illustrates this well: This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax and let the ends about his shoulders spread in thin clusters and in his eyes he glittered like a

hair [and] had a voice like a goat s bleat. He was beardless and would never have a beard I think he was a gelding or a mare. (Chaucer 1626-1627) Chaucer loaded this passage with physiognomy to let his readers know what type of man this pardoner was. First, the long thin yellow hair and high-pitched voice were symbols of a lack of manhood (Duino 322). Second, the wide glittering eyes were a symbol of shamelessness and pride. Thirdly, the fact that he had no facial hair not only was a symbol of a lack of manhood, but was also a symbol of sly cleverness (323). The last line of this passage is probably the most intriguing of them all. It suggests that the pardoner was a eunuch (someone who has either had his genitals removed). By making the Pardoner a eunuch, Chaucer accomplished

his goal of writing with deeper meaning and symbolism while maintaining an entertaining work one again. The effect of this on his audience was one of disgust and intrigue, but Chaucer had other intentions that stemmed from Biblical text. The Bible mentions two types of eunuchs: those who became eunuchs for spiritual reasons, and those who became eunuchs unspiritual reasons. The first type of eunuch sought to cut themselves off from worldly desires. If a member of the church was to be a eunuch, this was the only acceptable type. In fact Deuteronomy 23:1 condemns unspiritual eunuchs by commanding, No on who had been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of God (Santa Biblia 247). However, the audience knows that the Pardoner is not a spiritual man, so it

certainly was not for spiritual reasons. It can be assumed, however, that the Pardoner cut off his genitals because he was a very distorted individual who secretly wished to be a female. In attempt to keep this a secret, the Pardoner interrupts the Wife of Bath s prologue to announce that he desires to have a wench in every town (Helterman 2). Later the reader realizes this was simply a cover up when the Pardoner sings a song of carnal, rather than spiritual, love to the Summoner (Miller 182). To Chaucer this was the ultimate of hypocrisies. A eunuch who was, according to the Old Testament, not even supposed to be allowed in church, he made a leader of the church. Also, a spiritual eunuch chooses to cut himself off from temporal desires, but Chaucer s Pardoner choose to cut

himself off from spiritual desires. These underlying messages of hypocrisy give the educated reader an idea of Chaucer s personal views of some of the pardoner s in the church. Also, the manner in which Chaucer used both obvious character flaws of the Pardoner, and deeper hypocrisies of his nature, show the depth and genius of his writing. Another passage in The Canterbury Tales that invites interpretation and shows more obviously Chaucer s complexity, is at the conclusion of The Pardoner s Tale. The Pardoner told a type of tale to the other pilgrims that he was very accustomed to telling. It was a tale that taught the moral, radix malorum est cupiditas (Chaucer 1674). The Pardoner had previously admitted to the other pilgrims his manipulative method of selling worthless relics

and pardons. However, at the conclusion of his tale he tries to use that exact method to sell his worthless goods to the pilgrims. There is also a very interesting confrontation between the Pardoner and the Host. The Pardoner singles out the Host and tries to sell him his pardons, but the Host refuses and verbally attacks the Pardoner. To this attack the Pardoner did not answer; not a word, he was so angry, could he find to say (Chaucer 1685). This is one passage in which entertainment is not necessarily the obvious goal. Chaucer knew that this passage would not be easily understood by the middle class, but hoped it would spur deeper thought in them. In fact, scholars have not been able to agree on its purpose, and have come up with made many different interpretations. The most