Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Comparing The Pardoners Tale And The Nun's Priest's Tale

837 words - 3 pages

Irony in The Pardoners Tale and The Nun's Priest's Tale

 
Irony is the general name given to literary techniques that involve

surprising, interesting,or amusing contradictions. 1  Two stories that

serve as excellent demonstrations of irony are "The Pardoners Tale" and "

The Nun's Priest's Tale," both from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

Although these two stories are very different, they both use irony to teach

a lesson.

 

      Of the stories, "The Pardoners Tale" displays the most irony.

First and foremost, the entire telling of the story is ironic, considering

just who is the teller.  The Pardoner uses this story to speak out against

many social problems, all of which he himself is guilty of.  He preaches

about drunkenness, while he is drunk, blasphemy, as he attempts to sell

fake religious relics, and greed, when he himself is amazingly greedy.

Yet there are also many ironic situations in the story itself.  The irony

starts when, in the begining of the story, the three rioters make a pact

to "be brothers" and "each defend the others" and "to live and die for one

another" in protection from Death, (lines 37-43) and then in going out to

fulfill their vow, they end up finding money, and killing each other over

it. Even more ironic, is how they end up killing each other.  After

finding the money, the men plan to stay with it until it becomes dark and

they can safely take it away.  To tide themselves over until then, they

send the youngest one out to get food and wine, and while he is away they

plan to kill for his share of the money.  Ironically, the youngest one is

planning the same thing so he slips poison into the drinks of his

companions.  When he returns, he is attacked and stabbed to death by the

other men Then, in probably the most ironic action in the whole story, the

murderers, to congratulate themselves, drink from the poisoned cup and die.

 

 

      "The Nun's Priest's Tale" is also laden with irony, the most

obvious of which is the characters themselves.  The story begins by

telling of an old woman who owns several farm animals, but while the woman

is described as "a poor old widow," who "led a patient, simple life," (1

&6) while the animals are described as royalty.  For example, the animals

had regal names and titles, yet the woman had none at all.  The first

concrete example of irony, occurs...

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