Schrödinger’s Box: Reliquary Embodiment and the Paradox of Chaucer’s Pardoner
Lehr, Amanda Michelle
Among the sundry pilgrims traveling to Becket’s shrine in <i>The Canterbury Tales</i>, the Pardoner is one of Chaucer’s more memorable and fraught creations. Critics have attempted to make sense of his aggressive self-contradiction ─ with respect to both his slippery morals and effeminate, incoherent physical body ─ as allegory for a spiritual condition or as a set of sexual and humoral symptoms. I propose that, like the relics he carries, the Pardoner exists at the nexus of secular and spiritual meaning. Like the cat in Schrödinger’s thought experiment, he embodies seemingly irreconcilable conditions, giving physical substance to the text’s questions about the relationship between one’s intent and the material efficacy of one’s actions in the world.