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Do you feel any sympathy for Januarie?

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Wednesday, 26th March 2003 Jad Salfiti A2 English Literature, Poetry: The Merchant's Tale Do you feel any sympathy for Januarie? All humans are flawed and without these flaws we wouldn't be human. Contrary to common assumption Januarie is not merely a two-dimensional character used as a didactic device to demonstrate the importance of spiritual wealth and the innate immorality of the female species. Januarie is a multi-facetted character that like all humanity is imperfect. Januarie's shortcomings create a level of affinity between him and the reader, as a modern reader it is easy to relate to Januarie and sympathise with him, moreover the fact that Januarie seems to learn very little from his mistakes creates a comic affinity between him and the reader, Januarie embodies the view that ignorance is bliss. Januarie's pursuit of a wife and consequent marriage to Maye can be interpreted as a confession; an admission that in the end physical satisfaction cannot bridge a spiritual chasm "And folwed ay his bodily delyt, On women, ther as was his appetyt, As doon thise fooles that been seculeer". ...read more.


Januarie is becoming painfully self-conscious and it is beginning recognize that no amount of friends or sexual partners can counterweight spiritual emptiness. Credit must be given were it's due and Januarie's marriage to Maye was a turning of a new leaf for him, it marked the opening of a new chapter in his life. Certainly, it might be argued that Januarie's true motives for marriage are not completely reputable. Januarie wants to marry for three main reasons; to birth an heir; for permitted sexual intercourse; and for a place in heaven. However the counter-argument to that is that Januarie only desires the afore-mentioned because society has set the dictate. Society dictates what is correct, it also dictates what is needed and this results in a move towards social conformity. Therefore it can be read that Januarie is a victim of medieval society. Januarie is clearly insecure and self-doubting or else he wouldn't have renounced his epicurean life "QUOTE". ...read more.


Januarie talks of no dowry from Maye's family and is really saving her and her children from a lifestyle. Maye's treatment of Januarie towards the end of the tale also elicits sympathy from the reader, even more because throughout tale we are constantly reminded of the incongruity of the couple's ages "Whan tendre youthe hath wedded stoupyng age", it is inevitable that as a modern audience we sympathise with a blind old man rather than a young nubile girl who is "mannyssh wood". The one man who has pulled her out of the slum life she once lived, and catapulted her into a lifestyle so far taken from her own is being used as little more than a footstool, an object used to achieve sexual gratification from Damyan, we see the squalid, animalistic nature of humans. We see that Maye is ultimately no better than the old Januarie. Januarie is obviously happy in his new life because he refuses to see a lie when it stares him in the face in the form of May and Damyen up the tree. ...read more.

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