Review Questions for "The Pardoner's Tale": Sample Test on the Pardoner's Tale From Chaucer

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Questions from the Introduction to “The Pardoner’s Tale”

  1. Why does the Host ask the Pardoner to tell a jolly tale?
  2. What sort of story do the other pilgrims ask for instead?


  1. The Host asks for a merry story, because the Pardoner comes right after the Physician, whose tale involves the death of a young girl whose beauty led to a tragic series of events that ended in her death, at the hands of her father.
  2. The other pilgrims would rather hear a moral tale than a happy one.

The Prologue

  1. What is the topic of every sermon that the Pardoner preaches?
  2. What does the Pardoner get out after every sermon?
  3. Why is the answer to #2 an example of irony?
  4. What is the Pardoner’s motivation for preaching?


  1. Radix malorum est Cupiditas – or, in translation, “Greed is the root of all evil.”
  2. After he finishes preaching, the Pardoner gets out his sack of “relics,” promising that they have healing power for pilgrims, if the price is right.
  3. The relics are not genuine – they are fake. However, the pilgrims always believe that the relics are real, and they pay offerings to him for the chance to be “healed” by them. This is ironic, because the Pardoner always accepts the offerings and goes off with the money, knowing that the relics don’t have the promised power. The Pardoner’s topic is also his motivation.
  4. The Pardoner enjoys the financial rewards that preaching has brought him.

More Questions

  1. What are the four vices that the Flemish youths commit, according to the Pardoner’s sermon at the beginning of his tale?
  2. Why do the three youths decide to find Death and kill him?
  3. Who do you think the old man is that the youths meet while looking for Death?
  4. When the old man sends the youths to a particular tree, what do they find under it?
  5. The three rioters each plan murder. How do these plans work?
  6. What is the overall lesson of the story, according to the Pardoner?


  1. The four vices are gluttony, gambling, intoxication, and swearing. Interestingly the Pardoner argues that God hates swearing more than murder, because He forbade swearing in the second commandment, above the ban on murder.
  2. The young men hear that an old friend of theirs had been killed by Death. Emboldened by anger and alcohol, they decide to go out and find Death, to kill him.
  3. Because the old man’s advice leads the youths to the trap that ends up killing them, one could easily argue that the old man was Death himself.
  4. The old man sends the boys to a tree with eight bushels of gold under it – more than they could have carried away.
  5. The three youths realize they need the cover of night to carry the gold away without being accused of theft. In the meantime, they send the youngest of the three to town to get bread and wine. The two who stay back plan to kill the youngest when he returns; the youngest poisons two of the three bottles of wine, thinking that he can get all of the treasure himself without the other two to share with. The two jump the youngest when he returns, killing him. However, they pick up poisoned wine, and all three of them end up dying together.
  6. According to the Pardoner, the lesson of his tale is that avarice, or greed, is a sin that can easily lead to violence and destruction. After his tale, the Pardoner forgets himself and gets out his “relics” for the crowd – having forgotten that he had told them the relics he carried were fake anyway. The crowd gets angry, but the Knight makes the mood more comic, and the group moves along.