In “The General Prologue”, Chaucer presents himself to the audience as the narrator of his poem. Because his primary purpose throughout the whole poem was to observe and describe the character travelers that where traveling from England to Canterbury and to report to the audience each of the traveler’s tale. Chaucer starts by telling his main purpose views writing this poem in these quotes to his audience:
But nathelees, whil I have time and space,
Er that I fether in this tale pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to resoun
To telle you al the condicioun
Of eech of hem, so as it seemed me,
And whiche they were, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne:
And at a knight thanne wol I first biginne.
Here Chaucer is saying that he is going to describe the character travelers to his readers about their social rank, habits, and clothing. And additionally, by separating himself from the characters while reporting their tales to his audience the main tone Chaucer portraits in the poem is an ironic tone. Because Chaucer uses his role as narrator to praise aspects of the characters that are not praiseworthy for their position, which allows him to ironically tell the good and bad about them in an ironic and humorous way. And I believe that he starts with the pilgrims that he liked most and admired the most. For example, the Knight Chaucer describes him as:
A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the time that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chilvarye,
Trouthe and honour, freedom and curteisye.
The views of the Chaucer of how the orders the pilgrims were more about describing to the readers and given them a clearer representation of what the expected behaviors at the time were for men and the women he describes as his characters. Like one of the characters Chaucer describes as the most colorful of all, was the Wif of Bathe, which he describes to have had five husbands, who talks about love, wears a huge hat and is well traveled. Another character he describes as colorful as Bathe is, the Miller, with his red beard and his stories filled with obscenities.
The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale theme is about how money is the root of evil by describing how greedy and corrupted the Pardoner is and how he uses his preaching methods to get the pilgrims money. The Pardoner begins to describe himself to his fellow pilgrims about his own preaching methods he uses to manipulate people into giving him money. In the begging of the prologue he starts by saying, “My theme is always oon, and evere was: Radix malorum est cupiditas”(PPT,45-46). Which means that money is the root of all evil. He then revels how dishonest and greedy he is by discussing how he tricks the pilgrims out of their money by telling them a tale without doing his job right which is to award token remission of punishment for sins that the donor should have repented and confessed to him.
After the Pardoner describes how greedy and corrupted he is, he assures the people that he can still be able to tell a moral tell: “ For though myself be a ful vicious man, A moral tale yit I you telle can, Which I am wont to preche for to winnie.” (PPT, 171-173) The Pardoner starts to tell his tale to the people, which is a bombastic sermon against gluttony, gambling, and swearing, which he preaches to the people to show off his professional preaching skills. And the tale does preach that “Radix malorum est cupiditas”(PPT,46), which means money is the root of all evil.
- Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The General Prologue.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et. Al. 10th edition, vol. A, Norton, 2018, pp. 261-281.
- Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et. Al. 10th edition, vol. A, Norton, 2018, pp. 328-343.