• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

'Death is the central theme explored by the Pardoner'. How helpful do you find this observation?

Extracts from this document...


English Literature Essay 'Death is the central theme explored by the Pardoner'. How helpful do you find this observation? Whilst death is one of the central themes explored by the Pardoner in the General Prologue and Pardoner's prologue and tale, it is clearly one amongst many others, such as gambling, swearing and sin. The sins are all alluded to in avarice, gluttony, sloth, wrath, pride, sloth, and perhaps more indirectly, envy. However, death is perhaps the most immediate effect of these other themes, and is central to the plot, the characters and the audience. Chaucer creates these themes using the irony between what appears and what is, religiously charged imagery and the position of he who should practise what he preaches but does not, in the Pardoner. Some critics suggest that the Pardoner does not fear the death he frightens other with in his sermons, because he is already spiritually dead. The first point that the Pardoner makes is that his theme is always one - that the love of money is the root of all evil. It is ironic that while he preaches that, he seeks monetary returns for his homily; his efforts should be driven by the desire to do good, but instead are more immediate and material. ...read more.


Food and drink is also ironically has connotations of the Communion with wine and bread. It is the eating of what was forbidden that caused sin and therefore death in the first place, and it is the death of Christ that brought the redemption of others. The mention of death raises the tale of the three rioters, which is about death. "In essence it is that type of tale, favorite in folk-lore, which depends on a trick, in this case a double meaning for death which we understand but the rioters do not."1 The rioters seek death, ironically to kill 'him'. They succeed in the first part of their task and find death, yet it is 'he' who kills them. Based on the premise that they are guilty of killing each other, it is sequitur to conclude that death resides in all three of the rioters. This is of course spiritually true. The three rioters are already spiritually dead, drinking before the first belle "clinks" and showing disrespect to the elderly. The only life within them is that of the material world around them in food and drink. It would also seem, therefore, that the Pardoner is suggesting here that one dies when they are spiritually devoid. "No lenger thanne after Deeth they sougbte" (486) ...read more.


The rioters indulge the senses and rhetoric (through apostrophe and exclamatio) depicting cycles of eating and drinking in terms of excrement, urine and therefore physical alongside spiritual degradation. Again, as was so in Medieval England, a quest is sought to conquer the ultimate corruption of death (the cadaver tombs and exempla of death bed scenes), but the purpose of the rioters is to slay death in order to allow them to pursue a life of self-indulgence. "And we wol sleen this false traitour Deeth. He shal be slain, he that so many sleeth" (413-414) Thus, the plot of the tale; characters in their relation (the old man, the young boy and the innkeeper); the characterisation of death through the spiritual death of the Pardoner himself, the spiritual and actual death of the three rioters and their friend; are all synonymous with death - the moral of the story being the triumph of death over sin. Throughout, the use of diction and imagery with either implicitly or explicitly restates spiritual and incorruptible values and the truth above any other emphasise the only real way to destroy death, as Christ did. It would therefore seem that whilst Chaucer within the Pardoner explores a number of different themes, each of them returns to death and thus death is the central theme which the Pardoner explores. 1 Derek Pearsall - Death of a Salesman 2 York Notes - The Canterbury Tales Aymen Mahmoud JA4 English Literature/MP ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE War Poetry section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE War Poetry essays

  1. The theme that links my three chosen poems, 'Cold in the Earth', 'TheToys' and ...

    pre-20th century reader, for whom it was written, a star was the thing that guided people on the sea. Without him/her the voice feels that her/his life lacks guidance, as the lover was the navigational device in her sea of life, now she is thrown about.

  2. The Farming Of Bones

    girl that was killed fall out of a cart that Dominicans probably held her in: "From the back of the cart fell a girl, seventeen or eighteen years old. I raised my head to have a better look at her...She was wearing an orange-yellow dress with a cloth of purple madras wrapped around her head.

  1. To what extent can a near death experience be considered a religious experience?

    In response to the argument of why only some have near death experience, it could be put forward that this is because only some people nearly die. The major monotheistic faiths (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) will not recognise a near death experience as religious experiences, because it does not affect their religious belief.

  2. Does the death of the body constitute death of the person?

    In 1984, Diane Leslie spent hours in a morgue due to her condition of cartalepsy which portrays a death-like appearance, yet returned home four hours later and now lives in Canada (Scream, Discovery Channel). Life after death? If the medical profession can confuse life and death, then it is understandable

  1. The character of Granny Weatherall, the central character in Katherine Anne Porter's 'The Jilting ...

    Of course, she had a nice life with John, whom she married and had children with, but there was always the thought of what might have been had George been her husband. She thinks, "He never harmed me but in that" (3), a direct reference to being stood up at

  2. With reference to the text, what elements of the pardoner's tale make it an ...

    to this, just as the Pardoner would go to lengths to quench his thirst for money. The theme of death is another link between the Pardoner and his tale. This theme can be seen in the forms of both physical and spiritual death.

  1. The contradiction between one's public image and unadulterated feelings or desires is a dominant ...

    Aschenbach's inner torment begins to be exposed through the contradiction of youth and age in the old man's grotesque manner. "The company on the upper deck consisted of a group of young men...chattering, laughing...One of the party, who wore a light yellow summer suit of extravagant cut, a scarlet necktie

  2. On the Tombs in Westminster Abbey, Death the Leveller, Ozymandias, My Busconductor and Let ...

    In contrast to the mocking, ironic form of the first three poems in which kings are treated with contempt, My Busconductor is full of pathos. The reader is made to feel sadness for the bus conductor. He tries to make the poem sentimental - the bus conductor recalls things of

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work