How corruption is used in The Pardoner's Tale
There is physical corruption, of decay, disfigurement and decline throughout The Pardoner's Tale, especially in the demonstration sermon: O Dronke man, disfigured is thy face, is a blunt picture of a drunkard's ravaged face.
Decay also casts a shadow: The image of the poverste widwe in a village after been relieved of money from the Pardoner is bleak and cruel. The plague ravished village where Death can be found: I trowe his habitacioun be there is a dark gothic image.
Sins like drunkeness and gluttony result in physical disfigurement such as bloating and foul breath. Many of the relics the Pardoner has are physically unpleasent and are the residue of physical decay, bones and rags. Chaucer focuses again and again back to the idea that while all things will decline and rot away, wickedness accelerates the process.
Corruption in The Pardoner's Tale cont.
The focus on physical decay reflects the moral and spirtual corruption of the Pardoner. To the extent that we see through his eyes, it could be said that he sees the physical corruption in the world not merely as useful images to convince a congregation of the effects of sin, but because, being morally corrupt himself, he cannot help himself seeing the inevitable physical rot and decay around him.
We might suggest that the Pardoner is a victim of his own habitual deceptions. If so he is contemptuous of the world, how can he ever rejoice in anything within it except in a gleefully malignant sort of way. Yet he tries to present himself as a man who spends the money he exorts on extravagent things. This suggets a gregarious personality but he is too dark, too mired in sin to be described as that.
The focus on physical corruption through powerful images increases the gothic feel. Nothing in the tale is innocent or without blemish.