The Pardoner's Tale l.607-630: Concluding the sermon

Synopsis of l.607-630: Concluding the sermon

Using elaborate rhetoric, the Pardoner demonstrates how he whips up his audience to contemplate the wickedness of the sins which the story has illustrated. He induces guilt at the way God has been wounded by human sin, then suggests that his audience need themselves to repent, particularly of avarice. The powerful emotional effect of the rhetoric paves the way for the Pardoner's targeting of the pilgrims, to try to make money out of them. He invites them to receive a pardon from him, in return for money or goods, assuring them that those who pay can be forgiven and will end up in the ‘blisse of hevene'.

The Pardoner then breaks off from his ‘imaginary' congregation and addresses the Canterbury pilgrims who have heard his narrative. Surprisingly, he blesses them, acknowledging that the pardon of Christ is the most important.

Commentary on l.607-630: Concluding the sermon

l.608 traitours homicide: ‘homicidal traitors'.

These apostrophes start by deploring murder as the sin damned above all others, then he names other sins: gluttony, lechery, gambling and swearing ‘great oaths'—the sort of oaths that are both vulgar (vileynye) and attacks on Christ.

l.613 which that the wroghte: who created you – according to the Bible, God created humankind (Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:18 and Genesis 2:21

l.614 boghte: redeemed – the idea that Jesus ‘paid for' human sin by dying on the cross

l.615 unkinde: unnatural

l.616 goode men: From talking of sins in general, the Pardoner turns to his immediate audience, as potential customers
trespas: sins. This echoes part of the Lord's Prayer: ‘Forgive us our trespasses … and lead us not into temptation.'

l.617 ware you fro: guard yourselves from
Avarice: note Chaucer's irony that, just as the Pardoner begins to try to make money out of them, Chaucer puts into his mouth a warning against this sin!

l.618 may … warice: can … cure

l.619 nobles: coins worth one third of a pound (a very large sum)
sterlinges: silver pence

l.623-4 rolle: list, roll. A so-called bead-roll was a list of people who would be prayed for (bead at this period meant prayer). The Pardoner opening up a list, to write onto it those who would enter heaven, echoes the vision of Revelation 21:27 at the end of the New Testament:

‘Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life'. TNIV

l.625 assoille: absolve. The Pardoner is claiming that anyone on his list will be admitted into heaven and that he can absolve them from there sins. Both claims would be false

l.626 He makes it quite explicit that he is promising forgiveness of sins for merely paying the money

l.628-30 our soules leche: healer. ‘Leech' means ‘doctor'

  • What is happening here? Chaucer suddenly puts into the Pardoner's mouth a true statement: it is only Christ who can give grace, salvation.
  • This is a good example of how medieval writing can break out of realist expectations, in order to include an important idea. (It would be contradictory for a ‘rounded' character of the kind created in nineteenth-century fiction to express an idea so opposed to his own scam.)


This is a highly charged, rhetorically elaborate passage. It uses in particular a series of rhetorical invocations: apostrophes. This first section thus looks back to the tale and forward to the ‘sales pitch' addressed to the pilgrims.

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