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In the pardoner's tale the old man represents death. In the story three friends are drinking in a bar (at 9:30 in the morning!) upset that death has taken yet another of their friends. The old man the three rioters meet on their way to find death is one of chaucer's most ambiguous and mysterious characters. He is shrunken and wrinkled, and he begs death to free him from his body, which is slowly wasting away.