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Never Mind the Relics

Never Mind the Relics

Chapter:
(p.215) Conclusion Never Mind the Relics
Source:
Kiss My Relics
Author(s):
David Rollo
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226724607.003.0011

In the very act of administering his absolution, the Pardoner is prepared to engage in figurative sodomy. His relics are, of course, fake, and his pardon, even if genuinely a sign of empowerment bestowed by the pope, has been perverted to the satisfaction of personal greed. Chaucer, therefore, does not explicitly condemn the purchase of absolution. Rather, he warns of the extent to which it can be corrupted by the unscrupulous. And this is the sense of the sexual metaphors he uses to render the devices through which the Pardoner plies his trade. Figuratively offered as objects of sexual pleasure, relics and pardon are comparably obscene signs of moral deviance, venal perversions of a covenant between pope and people that bespeak the very adage the Pardoner uses as he preaches, “radix malorum est cupiditas.”

Keywords:   Pardoner, figurative sodomy, personal greed, Chaucer, absolution, sexual metaphor, sexual pleasure

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