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Reading: What Do We Say to the God of Death?: Examining the Modern Relevance of Chaucer’s “The Pardon...

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What Do We Say to the God of Death?: Examining the Modern Relevance of Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale”

Author:

Stephen Leach

Seattle University, US
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Abstract

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.”

How to Cite: Leach, S., 2022. 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, 14(2), pp.1–6. DOI: http://doi.org/10.7710/2168-0620.0392
Published on 20 Jun 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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