The Canterbury Tales The Pardoner's Prologue
The Pardoner begins his tale by talking about his motto, "My theme is alwey oon and evere was, / Radix malorum est Cupiditas." Pardoner's Prologue, l.5-6. He has a speech committed to memory that he divulges to his public at church. He shows his bag of relics, which he openly admits are all fake, and explains how he sells them to people as pardons for their grievances. He has advice for men who believe their wives to be unfaithful and states that these women have no claim to any of his relics. The Pardoner explains his fabricated actions:
I stonde lyk a clerk in my pulpet,
And whan the lewed peple is doun yset,
I preche so, as ye han heerd bifoore,
And telle an hundred false japes moore." Pardoner's Prologue, l.63-66
The Pardoner continues to dispel his dishonesty to the pilgrims by telling them about his greed and lack of integrity with those he supposedly pardons of sins. He claims to preach nothing but avarice, for he is guilty of all sins, which he claims to preach against. He would rather be rich and drunk and have a woman in every town than help poor, hungry peasants seeking aid. Now fully drunk, the Pardoner embarks upon his tale that he claims will not be as vicious as he is, and will conclude with a moral for all.