“The Merchant’s Tale” is based on the “fabliau” narrative genre common in medieval French literature. The stories are typically brief and funny, and they involve someone stealing another person’s wife. The main plot of “The Merchant’s Story” is typical of the genre, with the lustful old man being cuckolded by a young man. The folly of the old man who feels he can sexually satisfy the young man, good-looking wife, and make her be honest to him is part of the comedy of the fabliau of this kind. The paper focuses on January because he seems to be the victim of an unfaithful wife, but Chaucer’s medieval audience would have had no sympathy for his excessive desire and folly (Christina 107).
January is seen as an old, wealthy, and successful person. January has been single for sixty years and has lived as a ladies man. He insists that he wants to settle down and have a wife and get a son who can inherit his wealth after living a promiscuous life. He derives his name from Janus, who was a Roman god of doorways, who had two faces. This implies that January was taking stock of his past events hitherto and has the belief that his life is in danger of hell-fire unless he repents (Lerer 268). During that period, marriage was considered to be a holy sacrament that like confirmation and baptism enabled a new start in life. January has another practical reason and that he wishes to “engender him an heir” to take over the wealth and has and has no need that his tradition sholde falle in straunge hand. January indulges in wishful-thinking regarding a wife since he has the desire to serve, love, and to be loved. At this stage, the Merchant intervenes and says that intellectuals that include the prominent classical misogynist Theofrastus. They recommended that a reliable servant as being more useful than the wife who is seen as only after thy good. Nonetheless, January thinks that being a wife is like Goddes paradys who seith not ones He tries to reinforce his beliefs by recalling some of the names of virtuous wives from the holy book (Garay 133).
The story of January resumes at line 149 as he sends his friends to inform others about his decision and, after some duplicitous hypocrisy about upon my soule he declares that the lady must be under twenty since “a yonge thing may men gye” in contrast to a thirty-year-old who was but “bene-straw and greet forage” and that it is only better to feed to the livestock (Salisbury 147). January also boasts of his prowess that he terms as undiminished. His two brothers, as well as his friends, hold divergent opinions regarding marriage. January looks for a lady with the desired attributes of the myddel smal. Justinus urges warning, revealing that the lady might be your purgatorie and Gods means of punishing him for his past deeds while January was alive (Lütkenhaus 144).
January later decides to go ahead and with the help of his brothers, he marries May, the girl after providing the necessary inducement in the form of land conveyance and money. This is later followed by a wedding ceremony that was expensive. As illustrated, vitaille was the moste…in all Italian and significant was accompanied by a loud minstralcye; there is no doubt some type of medieval heavy rock type of music. May looked pretty and happy as the medieval romantic heroines were to look. Damian who was Januarys squire fall in love with her and they communicate without the knowledge of January (Epstein 27).
Januarys garden is an orchard with a perimeter wall, the symbolism of that with a long history in the Arabian and Biblical literature. This comes from the renown Garden of Eden through other various Old Testament references, as in the tale of Susannah and the elders, through the Harems of the East, to the Garden of Delights of a medieval romantic novel (Epstein 35). The term paradise implies an orchard and the purpose was the hidden inclusion where the main guy could corral his females to avoid other males from either sight or access, while at the same time giving the enjoyable place of scent and blossom to beguile his captives. This takes place in other Chaucerian stories, mainly in the Knights Tale. January never tolerated anyone inside his orchard and he had the only cliket to the gate (Salisbury 167).
January is shocked by what he sees and May provided the gift of certainty by Proserpine, asserts that struggling with the male in a tree was the only way of his regaining the sight. January is doubtful regarding May’s struggling, but she tells him that he should be grateful he can see properly. January is slowly encouraged and proprietarily parting her belly, he moves her home to his parlay. This literature in nutshell talks about the Merchants cynical and bitter thoughts of marriage and indirectly expands and supports Clerk’s point with the story of January, a rich and old man with the deceitful wife. It is imperative to note that his decision is less the effect of holiness than his dotage and desire to get an heir. The Merchants Tale impresses as it shows the romance of impression: the story of desire and deceit that are shown through images of Stoic epistemology (Lerer 270).
Epstein, Robert. “The lack of interest in the Shipmans tale: Chaucer and the social theory of the
gift.” Modern Philology 113.1 (2015): 27-48.
Garay, Petra. Humour, Satire, and Irony in The Canterbury Tales and in Their Film Adaptations.
Diss. Masarykova univerzita, Pedagogická fakulta, 2012.
Innes, Sheila, ed. The Merchant’s Prologue and Tale. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Lerer, Seth, ed. The Yale Companion to Chaucer. Yale University Press, 2006.
Lütkenhaus, Hannah. “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the Media.” (2012).
Salisbury, Eve. “Adolescentia:For Youthe and Elde is Often at Debaat.” Chaucer and the
Child. Palgrave Macmillan US, 2017. 147-185.
von Nolcken, Christina. “Penny Poet Chaucer, or Chaucer and the Penny Dreadfuls.” The
chaucer review 47.2 (2012): 107-133.