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Chaucer’s Pardoner’s tale Analysis on lines 520 through to 602
Chaucer’s depiction of everyday life demonstrates the mockery, or even disregard for kindness, honesty and the other virtues that balance the sins prone to human error and judgment. With impiety being flaunted openly in society, this shows times of rebuke and alarm in the church, even man’s faith in God’s ruling. The connotation of the extract given is simply the ease of sin and how good men can without difficulty be undone by moments of weakness and foolery. He moulds the inner thoughts and desires of his characters intimately, summarising their nature rather than their movements and opinions.
The rapidity of pace deciphers the verses as the tone strengthens the moral undertones. His anger shows through, particularly from lines 531 to 540 resulting in the highlighting of Chaucer’s main frustration, – avoidable wickedness – whereby they lose themselves and everything they hold dear. The sins that cause the most damage to man are pride, wrath and gluttony. These sins, along with others, diminish souls and ultimately the prospect of eternal life and happiness in heaven. The narrative is in the first person, believed to be Chaucer’s own voice and how he views people who openly sin.
Chaucer’s moralistic beliefs are being highlighted through the denotation of the pardoner’s character’s actions. The pardoner seems to be the puppet outlining the loneliness of transgressions gone awry. “Now lat us sitte and drynke, and make us merie, And afterward we wol his body berie. ” The church was a place of redemption in those times, people turned to the followers of God as their moral compass but the pardoner openly flaunts his lack of guidance and even his lack of guilt for his actions.
He acknowledges that good doing is rewarded in the end but then is the last one to learn from his own words. Irony is rife in the pardoner’s tale as the young men all vowed to each other that they would protect and look after each other as brothers but the irony is that they have barely just sworn the oath when it is already falling apart after the first hurdle. “That oon of hem spak thus unto that oother, Thou woost wel, that oure felawe is agon, And heere is gold, and that ful greet plentee, That shal departed been among us thre.
But nathelees, if I kan shape it so That it departed were among us two,” The irony of their being told that they would find death if they went the ‘crooked way’ by the old man also demonstrates their behaviour being that of a morally crooked person. When the rioters all find the money, they all draw lots for who will go and find food and drink, and who will look after the money. In the end the youngest goes to the village and requests rat poison to get rid of vermin. This suggests that he believes his ‘brothers’ to be moral vermin, which is ironic because he is already plotting the same crime as them.
In each section of the passage there is a distinct expression of interaction between the two brothers and the third with the owner of the ‘pothecarie’. In both scenes they are talking about death but in different terms. The brothers are convincing one another that killing the third is appropriate, meanwhile the third brother has already convinced himself that the others must go and so is now explaining to the owner that he wants to buy poison and even refers to the brothers as vermin that bother him.
This ironic turning from one brothers vow to the others as embracing them as blood, to plotting and acting out their demise. In both scenarios the link to loyalty and decency has altered to tie them together to fulfil the old mans promise of finding death. The pace is solid and rhyme continuous as it keeps the rigidity of poignant blows and references to death. The repetitiveness in mentioning death keeps it fresh and lingering in the foreground of the tale. The narrative voice morphs from character to character, expressing their views and opinions till the collective conclusion with the brothers lying deceased.
The verse collects to form this imagery of shadows caressing their resting place, deep in the woods, hidden to outside man with no one to care for their wounds. References like “Arys, as though thou woldest with hym pleye, And I shal ryve hym thurgh the sydes tweye, Whil that thou strogelest with hym as in game, And with thy daggere looke thou do the same;” conjures up man wrestling for life, prehistoric society to find leaders, betrayal and dark tones. Each word strips the men of their innocence in the eyes of the reader, losing empathy and respect as Chaucer had intended.
The main reason for Chaucer to react so fervently about gluttony is because it is a passage-way to sin, often prompting another sinful action. Sins are closely linked to one another, so one situation can easily escalate quickly, leading to other greater sins. “Ther is no man that lyveth under the trone Of God, that sholde lyve so murye as I. And atte laste the feend, oure enemy, Putte in his thought that he sholde poyson beye,” The seven deadly sins are pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, avarice, and lechery.
Geoffrey Chaucer’s masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, provides an excellent story about the deadly sins. Focusing mainly on the sins of pride, gluttony and greed, the characters found in The Canterbury Tales, particularly The Pardoner’s Tale, are so overwhelmed by their earthly desires and ambitions that they fail to see the effects of their sinful actions, therefore depriving themselves of salvation. With the summary of the tale coming to a close, God’s image is distorted by their immoral actions, with inebriation being the initial start to the deadly seven vices.
This delivers the first of human failings, sin, thereby setting the tone of guilt, showing the listener the need for remorse. Chaucer reaches this with the opening to the studied passage ‘To gete a glotoun deyntee mete and drynke! Of this matiere, o paul, wel kanstow trete — Mete unto wombe, and wombe eek unto mete, Shal God destroyen bothe, as paulus seith. Showing the drink as an accompaniment to sin, gluttony reminds each individual that sins all lead to each other as they conjure up associated personal painful experiences.
These brought up alongside the counterbalanced seven virtues gives great strength to salvation. Chaucer shows himself as the narrator, or man’s conscience, as he personifies the voice of logic and reason, and so guides the reader to the inevitable conclusion. Gluttony is defined as the over-indulgence of food and drink. The pardoner said that gluttony was the sin that corrupted the world. The first form of gluttony is drunkenness. ‘o dronke manb, disfigured is thy face, sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace, and thurgh thy dronke nose semeth the soun as though though sedest as sampsoun, sampsoun! Drunkenness is sinful because man loses his ability to reason.
The three men were guilty of gluttony when they over indulged in wine at the tavern that eventually led to swearing, lechery and the desire to harm one another, even unto death. The pardoner claimed that drunkenness played a big role when Lot committed incest with two of his daughters. Drunkenness influenced Herod’s decision when he ordered John the Baptist beheaded. With gluttony unknowingly being the passage sin committed, these two examples lead both to incest, rape and murder.
The pardoner, however, did not practice what he preached. He couldn’t proceed with his exemplum until he had had something more to drink! The youngest brother is the one that most of the focal point for evil can be centred upon because he is alone in his convictions to murder. The other two have each other to coax each other on, and derive grave unfortunate conclusions but the youngest has set out, even being told by the owner “This poysoun is so strong and violent. This cursed man hath in his hond yhent”, meaning that he knows they shall suffer, feel the pain and have them know it was him that had ended their lives for his selfish gain, but still “To sleen hem bothe, and nevere to repente”. Lines 531 to 535 shows Chaucer’s complete shock and disgust, connecting alcohol with promiscuity and fake idols, which leads to being corrupt enemies of Christ.
‘I seye it now wepyng, with pitous voys that they been enemys of cristes croys, of whiche the ende is deeth, wombe is hir god! O wombe! o bely! stynkyng cod, Fulfilled of dong and of corrupcioun! The sin of lust is introduced in this verse as the men favour the satisfactions of the flesh rather than the purity of their souls, showing that they have spiritually rejected heaven and Christ. Lines 542 to 550 depicts the gluttony of their characters as painted by Chaucer’s narrative, ‘The Mary, for they caste noght awey that may go thurgh the golet softe and swoote. Of spicerie of leef, and bark, and roote shal been his sauce ymaked by delit, to make hym yet a newer appetite.
But, certes, he that haunteth swiche delices is deed, whil that he lyveth in tho vices. A lecherous thyng is wyn, and dronkenesse is ful of stryvyng and of wrecchednesse. ‘ The verse portrays the men as selfish; the moral portrays their characters as turning from focused to sloth from the time they find the money. Each man believes he should have the money and so their pride and greed get in the way of their judgment, leading to wrath. The verses keep their symmetry in theme, rhythm and dark undertones. Each man set out on a different path but each with a similar goal in mind.
Some plot together, “Thou knowest wel thou art my sworen brother; Thy profit wol I telle thee anon. ” others convince themselves “O lorde,” quod he, “if so were that I myghte, Have al this tresor to my-self allone,” but all come to the same conclusion. The balance of good intent, to corrupt from sinful gains shadows the story that was told by a man so worthy of pity and hatred that the ironic twist is not lost, even though the men found their fate. The pardoner lives on to tell the tale and grasp his forgivable life of emotionless riches.
The style carries their deceit and sins. They declare they are good but the narrative makes liars of them as their tongues no longer know what they speak. Each narrative voice shows the central characters as bad, if not misguided and foolish men, directed only by the pleasures of the material world rather than the spiritual. Their comparison of themselves to honourable men, which are good and noble, plays to their pride and make them almost boastful, if the text had been in, the first person. Alas, the raconteur continues to show the men up, following every prideful sin.
For the verse to finish with the men still being wicked, deceitful, and even turning against each other, they are shown as doomed. This is the message that I believe Chaucer is trying to scream out at us; Love God, love thy neighbour. Unfortunately there is always temptation but if you follow it, it will never take you to where you thought you would end up; instead, evil will take over, strip you of your soul and leave you bare and alone. “To take the botel ther the poysoun was, And drank, and yaf his felawe drynke also, For which anon they storven bothe two. ”