The Pardoner's Tale

Greed Is the Root of All Evil

Who is the Pardoner?

The Pardoner is a man whose job is to offer indulgences for particular sins committed by people of the church, while those who commit the sins, pay the church (which is really the Pardoner). That causes his job to be questionable along with him having qualities of being cunning and crafty. He is a close friend and singing companion of the Summoner, and he does not have a beard and will never be able to grow one.

Vocabulary to Know

  • Omnipotent- Almighty or infinite in power, as God.
  • Pestilence- A deadly or virulent epidemic disease.
  • Mirth- Gaiety or jollity, especially when accompanied by laughter.
  • Tarry- To delay or be tardy in acting, starting, coming, etc.; linger or loiter.
  • Reprehensible- Deserving of reproof, rebuke, or censure; blameworthy.

Summary of The Pardoner's Tale

The Pardoner begins to explain in his prologue that he only preaches for money, not because he cares about correcting sins. He addresses a few pleasures in life that common people abuse and show spoiledness. One is gluttony, which he exploits as the sin that first caused the fall of mankind in Eden. After comes drunkenness, which makes a man seem mad and witless. Next is gambling, the temptation that ruins men of power and wealth along with swearing. He then proceeds to start his tale with a few drunken men who hear of a figure named Death taking one of their old friend's life and they set out to kill it showing their madness and lack of wit. They find a man and he directs them to a tall tree to find death but instead they find 8 bushels of gold but realize they cannot transport in during the day. So one of the three men is selected to go back and get food and wine while the other two are left with the gold. The two are acting very greedy and say to themselves that if they kill the man going to get the wine, they will have a larger portion to share among each other. The man going to get the wine is no fool either, he goes and buys poison to kill the two men to have a larger wealth. When he buys two bottles that he poisons and one that is pure for him, he goes back to the bushels but before he gets a chance to lure the other two into his trap, they kill him. As they celebrate they both happen to pick up the poisoned wine and end up dying.

Moral of the Tale

The Moral of the tale is that no matter how addictive the feeling of having riches, be happy with what you have. There is no need to take things that you have not worked hard for or earned especially when it is not yours to take. Respect is also a large moral of the story because respecting yourself is needed without being drunk and impairing yourself after working hard to get yourself in situations to be successful, and respect does not end there, people should respect others by not feeling the need to use words that are frowned upon in a formal situation.


While I was reading this tale, I could not help but thought I have heard it before but not in the form from The Canterbury Tales. That got me thinking to go and check out if there are any similar stories and so there was. J.K. Rowling's book, The Tales of Beedle and Bard, and The Tale of the Three Brothers had the same concept. It is a very good life lesson and it is not a surprise that it is told in many different forms especially from such a well known author within J.K. Rowling.
Tim McInnerny in "The Canterbury Tales: The Pardoner's Tale"

Essential Questions

1. How can one resist temptations that are not for them to take when those temptations are so easy to access?

2. Why is compromise a much better solution then taking everything for yourself and benefiting you?