There are many references to the Pardoner’s appearance and character in the portrait, introduction and Pardoner’s prologue. Overall, the audience see him as intelligent, good at public speaking and preaching, but immoral, hypocritical, greedy, cruel hearted and patronising, they also are uncertain about his sexuality. I will discuss and analyse these points. The Pardoner’s appearance is noticed at once and is extremely unusual. He is called a, “gentil Pardoner”, but this is ironic as he is neither “gentil” in personality or appearance.
Chaucer describes his harsh features in the Pardoner’s Portrait. He has yellow, dry and lifeless hair with sections that have fallen out, “heer as yelow as wex, But smothe it heeng as doth a strike of flex; … But thin it lay, by colpons oon and oon. ” The description continues to his other, somewhat repulsive, features, “glaringe eyen hadde he as an hare. ” His repulsive looks reflect the audience’s perception of his character. They recognize him to have an “ugly” personality, as well as appearance.
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When Chaucer compares his eyes to that of a hare, the audience are strongly aware of the connections between this and his personality; the Pardoner is an animal. His looks make him immediately fascinating, yet revolting, and also help to reveal other aspects of his character. The audience detect hidden meaning behind the Pardoner’s effeminate qualities, “A voys he hadde as small as hath a goot, No berd hadde he, ne nevre sholde have; … I trowe he were a gelding or a mare”
This description portrays him in a very feminine way as, shown above, he has a very goat like, or high-pitched voice, he could not grow a beard, and perhaps most insulting to the Pardoner, Chaucer thought he might be a eunuch. This coupled with the earlier harmonised singing with the Summoner, leaves the audience to speculate about his sexuality. Therefore, to his character we can add the he may have been a eunuch homosexual! The Pardoner’s vanity is also exposed in the Portrait of him.
“By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde” “By hood, for jolitee, wered he noon” Although Chaucer is heavily implying in the above quotations, when taken in the context of entire description, that the Pardoner looks very stupid, he actually believes by not wearing a hood and showing off his lifeless hair in bunches that he looks attractive. He thinks that his long yellow hair looks impressive, although it is another of his effeminate qualities, and so vainly shows it off at any opportunity.