Chaucer’s Pardoner and Gender Theory: Bodies of Discourse by Robert S. Sturges (auth.)

By Robert S. Sturges (auth.)

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21 If, as Strohm has it, the Miller's social reintegration is relatively painless compared to that of the real peasant rebels, the same might be said of the Pardoner, though whether he is, like the Miller, successfully reintegrated into the pilgrimage community is open to question. " 22 In The Canterbury Tales, however, this peace is signified in uncomfortably gendered-and erotic-terms. The Kiss of Peace proposed-with good intentions but no sense on the Knight's part of the typically Chaucerian irony perceptible to readers-follows the Pardoner's proposal that the Host kiss his relics and the Host's angry response invoking an imagined kiss of the Pardoner's breeches.

I do not wish to argue that this is Chaucer's intention. But the discourse of gender-and perhaps poetic discourse itself-is so slippery and ambiguous that it seems inevitably to deconstruct itself, to allow prohibited meanings to manifest themselves in the very language that attempts to silence them. If sodomy and revolt are both like heresy in their rebellion against God's order, which includes the authority of the king, Chaucer must condemn them in the person of the Pardoner; and yet, sodomy itself escapes such discursive orthodoxies.

The Kiss of Peace proposed-with good intentions but no sense on the Knight's part of the typically Chaucerian irony perceptible to readers-follows the Pardoner's proposal that the Host kiss his relics and the Host's angry response invoking an imagined kiss of the Pardoner's breeches. And the use of the purse as a double entendre for male sex organs is established by the Wife of Bath ("Yblessed be God that I have wedded fyve! The double reference to purse and relics requires a sodomitical reading, and that is how the Host understands it, hence his furious refusal.

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