Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Comparing The Pardoners Tale and The Nun's Priest's Tale

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Irony in The Pardoners Tale and The Nun's Priest's Tale

Irony is the general name given to literary techniques that involve

surprising, interesting,or amusing contradictions. 1 Two stories that

serve as excellent demonstrations of irony are "The Pardoners Tale" and "

The Nun's Priest's Tale," both from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

Although these two stories are very different, they both use irony to teach

a lesson.

Of the stories, "The Pardoners Tale" displays the most irony.

First and foremost, the entire telling of the story is ironic, considering

just who is the teller. The Pardoner uses this story to speak out against

many social problems, all of which he himself is
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"The Nun's Priest's Tale" is also laden with irony, the most

obvious of which is the characters themselves. The story begins by

telling of an old woman who owns several farm animals, but while the woman

is described as "a poor old widow," who "led a patient, simple life," (1

&6) while the animals are described as royalty. For example, the animals

had regal names and titles, yet the woman had none at all. The first

concrete example of irony, occurs after Chanticleer has told Pertelote of

his dream, and she makes fun of him. Chanticleer says "Mulier est hominis

confusio," which he tells her means "Woman is man's delight and all his

bliss," but in reality means that woman leads to the destruction of man.

Although Chanticleer means to tease her, it becomes ironic when

Pertelote's advice for Chanticleer to ignore his dream ends up leading to

his downfall. His downfall occurs when Chanticleer is tricked by the fox

into his trap, but what is ironic is the downfall of the fox. When the fox

has caught Chanticleer he says to him, that misfortune will come to those

who talk when they should be quiet, but this lack of silence from the fox

leads to his loss. The fox had captured Chanticleer by flattering him

until he did something foolish

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