One of the most pointed of all Chaucer's stories is The Pardoner's Tale—the story of the three young roisterers who went looking for Death. They seize an old man and mockingly demand that he tell them where Death can be found. He assures them that he has seen Death, that very day, down the road, under an oak tree. With drunken bravado, they march to the tree and find, to their amazed delight, a pile of gold florins. But the old man was right, too. Since the three decide they cannot haul their treasure home in daylight, they send the...

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