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11 - The Pardoner and His Tale

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 August 2020

Frank Grady
Affiliation:
University of Missouri, St Louis
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Summary

Although each Canterbury tale may be separated from its teller (and thus read as a distinctly Chaucerian statement), this chapter instead follows the majority of recent criticism in tying The Pardoner’s Tale closely to the Pardoner. In keeping with recent trends, it considers the prospect that the Pardoner, following his designation as a “mare,” is gay. This approach affords the opportunity to discuss the misogyny that underwrites ideas of both woman and sodomy during the era. The chapter follows two interpretive trajectories in linking the Pardoner’s performance to its context within the imagined drama of the Canterbury Tales. At the same time that the tale and prologue contain a sodomitic subtext, they also resonate with the actions and investments of the larger group of pilgrims. That linkage enables the Pardoner to “quyte” or avenge himself on a Christian society that demonizes sodomites by exposing the sinfulness of its members and the emptiness of its religious practice. Complicating the oppositional relationship between the Pardoner and the pilgrims is the famous kiss orchestrated by the Knight, which offers some hope, albeit fragile and temporary, for an alternative social order.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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