At the opening of the Pardoner’s Tale, Chaucer introduces the three main characters and, by his description of them, identifies them as sinners. Also, through emotive lingual and poetic techniques, a mood is set which the rest of the tale can later develop.
The Pardoner’s Tale is a sermon against the folly of cupiditas, and the opening serves well to begin that tale. The protagonists themselves, introduced near the outset as "yonge folk that haunteden folye", are clearly established as archetypal sinners as they "daunce", "pleyen at dees", "eten ... and drynken" and frequent "stywes and tavernes". They are accused of devil worship by their "superfluytee abhomynable", and their oath-making is "grisly". Each of these sins will later be specifically preached against by the Pardoner, especially gluttony ("O glotonye, ful of cursednesse!"); it seems clear that the characters are written as examples of sinners who have strayed from the path directed by the Pardoner, and will, the reader can most likely predict, come to an unfortunate end.
The passage also includes much in the way of symbolism, especially religious, which sets the deeply dogmatic tone that will be continued throughout the entirety of the Tale. The revellers’ excessive indulgence is compared to hysterical repetition of the Catholic mass, where Christ’s body, in the form of bread, is symbolically torn:
"Oure blissed Lordes body they totere,
Hem thoughte that Jewes rente hym noght ynough"
Their behaviour is damned as a conscious ("hem thoughte"), deliberate attack on Christ; the literal nature of the comparison to the crucifixion, with its reference to the Jews, painting a vivid picture to the listeners of the revellers’ natures - a medieval audience would certainly be well aware of the biblical tale to which Chaucer is alluding. We are also given a contrast between God’s grace and the revellers base nature through the inclusion of "blissed", the first positive epithet in the excerpt; through its incongruity it draws attention to...