The Pardoner's Tale - l.563-606: Love of money leads to death

Synopsis of l.563-606: Love of money leads to death

PoisonThe youngest rioter buys strong poison from a chemist, which he claims is needed to kill vermin. He then borrows three bottles and poisons two of them, before filling them all with wine. Thus prepared, he returns to his colleagues.

The two older youths stab the youngest as planned, then decide to have a drink before burying his corpse and dividing up the treasure. Both are killed when they share one of the poisoned bottles of wine, the effects of the poison being severe.

Commentary on l.563-606: Love of money leads to death

l.564 pothecarie: chemist, pharmacist

l.567 hawe: yard

l.568 capouns: capons, chickens

l.569 wreke: revenge

l.570 The image of the vermin can be seen as a metaphor for the other thieves

l.572 The seriousness of death is highlighted by the chemist's reference to judgement, when Christians trust their souls will be saved for eternal life

l.574 confiture: mixture, a medicine containing several ingredients (the term is applied today to high class jam)

l.575 montaunce: amount

l.576 forlete: give up / forfeit

l.577 sterve: die (see also l.600 storven). In Chaucer's time, this meant any death rather than just death by lack of food.

l.578 goon a paas nat but a mile: walk not more than a mile

l.580 yhent: taken
        Cursed: condemned, damned. This relates to the youth's refusal to repent (see l.562 and notes on l.556 and l.559-60)

l.586 shoop him for to swinke: planned to work (and therefore sweat)

l.588 with sory grace: in a sad act, with an evil attitude

l.591 sermone: talk about (at some length). Here we see the first of a number of moments when Chaucer re-introduces the impression that we are hearing a sermon preached by the Pardoner

l.592 cast: planned

l.593 anon: immediately

l.597 par cas: by chance

Avicenna statue, photo by Alefbe, available through Creative Commonsl.601 suppose: think
        Avycen: Avicenna (981-1037, Alī Sīnā Balkhi, a renowned Arab philosopher whose medical writing, particularly his Canon of Healing were text books in medieval universities

l.602 canon: textbook or rule. Chaucer mentions the name of Avicenna's greatest book, in which the chapters were also often entitled ‘canons'
        fen: subsection / chapter: Avicenna's Canon was divided into sections called ‘fens' 

l.604 hire: their

Style and pace

The pace is quick, the story concluded with little elaboration. Chaucer has already told the manner of the youngest boy's death in the conspiracy speech, so now he focuses attention more on the evil mindset of the conspirators than on the violence of the subsequent action.

The reference to an ‘authority' (the medic, Avicenna) starts to return us to sermon mode.


Investigating l.563-606: Love of money leads to death 

  • From what / whose point of view is the youngest rioter ‘cursed' (l.580)?
  • What is the effect of the choice of the word ‘grace' in l.588?
  • Clear and rapid narrative can be as effective as elaborate rhetoric
    • Talk through the techniques Chaucer uses to ‘hold' his audience right up to the denouement of the story.
  • Which earlier themes get re-introduced in this final scene and in what way?
  • How does Chaucer show the reader that, in seeking money, these thugs have found death?
  • The question was posed at the start of the narrative: ‘Can a wicked person tell a moral tale?'
    • In the light of this, what are your views of the Pardoner's story? 
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