The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
He wolde techen him to have non awe
In swiche cas of the erchedeknes curs,
But-if a mannes soule were in his purs,
For in his purs he sholde y-punisshed be.
(General Prologue 654 – 657)
The Summoner knows that it's possible to buy forgiveness and thus avoid or reverse a sentence of excommunication ("the erchedeknes curs"). Perhaps he wants the people he summons to appear before the archdeacon for sin to come easily.
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
He most preche, and wel affyle his tonge
To winne silver, as he ful wel coude.
(General Prologue 711 – 713)
Because he makes his living by selling pardons, or forgiveness from sin, the Pardoner must tell people they are very sinful, whether or not they actually are. That way, they will want to purchase the pardons he is selling. Thus the Pardoner's trade is inherently deceitful, since the Pardoner must always ignore the actual state of people's souls in favor of the sermon that will make him the most money.
"I seye, my lord kan swich subtilitee –
That al this ground on which we been ridyng
Til that we come to Caunterbury toun,
He koude al clene turnen up-so-doun
And pave it al of silver and of gold."
(Canon's Yeoman's Prologue 67, 70 – 73)
With this statement, the Canon's Yeoman's reveals that his master is an alchemist, someone who studies how to turn metals like lead and copper into gold. The fact that he does so in such fabulous terms, saying not just that his master can turn lead into gold, but that he could pave the whole road to Canterbury with the stuff, reveals that the Canon's Yeoman is eager to impress the pilgrims.