Branching Out: Trees and Knowledge in Chaucer’s “The Merchant’s Tale” and “The Pardoner’s Tale”
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1387–1400), the arboreal is imbued with symbolic and allegorical meaning. Used by Chaucer as rhetorical devices, the trees in “The Merchant’s Tale” symbolize fertility, while the tree in “The Pardoner’s Tale” symbolizes death. In both tales, the arboreal functions allegorically, representing the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. By using nature in this manner, Chaucer creates ambiguity in his work, complicating the idea of knowledge in both tales.
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