The Social Background in
the 14 Century
Chaucer is the first great poet of the medieval British Literature. He is the son of a wine merchant in London. He devoted his literary talents to the creation of verse that was lively and pleasing throughout his life. His first long poem was the Book of the Duchess, which flows the style of the French verse, written on the death of Lady Blanche.
The Pardoner's Tale in the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer reveals that commoners were living in a status of poor condition at the Medieval English period. The commoners were usually the lower class people and most of them were illiterate. To provide services to their landlords, they spent most of the time on doing the physical work rather than receiving education at school in order to maintain their daily lives. In addition, war and diseases were prevalent throughout the Medieval Ages. In 1348, a serious epidemic disease called Black Death is prevailing throughout Europe. Therefore, they were ignorant and superstitious that they always felt doubt about whether there is an existence of Kingdom of God or not. At the same time they also feared that they would possibly be attacked by the evil spirits at any time. However, they did not completely give up their eternal hope to be survived on earth as they believed in what the pardoners' preaching.
The Pardoners were religious and professional clergies who had authority from Rome. They usually have big eyes, yellow hair and are beardless. Whatever people came to him, their sins would certainly be pardoned. The pardoners were actually bad, greedy and cunning guys. They cheated the commoners by selling those invaluable indulgences or relics in order to feed their own. They usually sang and preached in high-pitched voice when they were selling those relics and indulgences to the people. He is considered to be one of the most corrupt of the churchmen as described in the prologue to his tale and finally he confesses to his hypocrisy.