Never Mind the Relics

David Rollo

in Kiss My Relics

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780226724614
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226724607 | DOI:
Never Mind the Relics

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  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)


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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

Chapter.  9060 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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