Canterbury Tales: The Pardoner’s Tale

The Pardoner’s Tale is a gripping story about three foolish men who swear an oath of brotherhood to each other, and set out to kill Death himself.

The three men, as they were asking around as to the location of Death, encountered an old man whom they asked the question to. He answered them, saying that Death could be found under a certain tree a way off from the tavern they were currently in. The three went to the aforementioned tree and dug under it, and found a pile of treasure. The fools were overjoyed at the discovery and dreamed and fantasized about their futures with the wealth they obtained. Their primary desire was to gamble with dice. Since they had so much gold, they could play dice for the rest of their lives!

But the three needed food. So they drew lots over which of them should go into town and steal bread and wine. The youngest of the three lost, and so traveled off in search of replenishment. Then, one of the two hatched an evil plan, and conspired with the other to murder the other when he returned, in order that they would have more of the gold to the two of them. But, unbeknownst to the two, the one in town plotted to kill the other two, and bought poison with which he used to lace the wine. At the moment of his return the youngest was overpowered and stabbed to death by the two others. The killers consumed the food and drink that the (now dead) one had brought back, thus poisoning themselves and dying slow deaths.

The three fools had broken their brotherhood and the oath of their brotherhood because of their greed.

But who was the old man who gave them the knowledge of death being by the tree? Was he Death? Was the gold Death? Was Death simply watching over them by the tree? I don’t know for sure, but I’m inclined to think that the man wasn’t Death. But when he said that death could be found by the tree, that sounds (to me) like he knew that the fools were going to kill each other, thus finding death by the tree.

But whatever the case, this story is a reminder that the love of money, greed, is the root of all evils. Oaths don’t mean anything, especially to fools and thieves like the kind in the story. Greed can cause a man to break a brotherhood and kill others in the hopes of obtaining money.


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