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Concentrating on lines 33-186, comment on the ways in which the theme of marriage is explored in the 'Merchant's Tale'

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Jenny Steadman Concentrating on lines 33-186, comment on the ways in which the theme of marriage is explored in the 'Merchant's Tale' The theme of marriage runs throughout the whole of Chaucer's poem, a serious topic on which Chaucer wrote well and often. It could be argued that the views on marriage that are highlighted are those of the poet himself and that the fictional character of the Merchant is used as the poet's mouthpiece. When looking at the theme of marriage in the section, I clearly found a number of different attitudes including that of cynicism. I am going to discuss some of these attitudes in this essay and comment on the way in which the theme of marriage is explored. In the opening lines of the poem, the merchant begins to tell us the story of Januarie, for 60 years he lived without a wife and was satisfied with the life he had but he had a strong will to be married. ...read more.


We see the use of the sermon technique being used by Chaucer as the merchant speaks, this is to engage the audience. From line 126 onwards we see the view of both the merchant and Januarie, if a man was to be poor, his wife would help him by working, she should be virtuous and merry and he prays to god that he will not be deceived. From reading the tale we know that his wife will deceive him. Line 150 and onwards we see another intertexual reference, again to the bible. This states that even biblical idols have been deceived. This is Chaucer preparing his audience for deceit and it reinforces the merchant's view on marriage. In this sense the merchant can be see as blasphemous if the lines where meant sarcastically. "By good conseil delivered out of wo the peple of God, and made him Mardochee Of Assuere enhaunced for to be." ...read more.


Chaucer uses the different characters to show the many different views of marriage. We see Januarie believing that he should marry a young wife quickly as it is the most important thing to do to make his life happy and complete before he dies. Marriage is the only place to have children and this is another reason for him wanting to be married, as he wants an heir. The view of the merchant is somewhat confusing, in the beginning he tells his audience that he wishes that he wouldn't have married his wife as she is a "shrew" but then we see him telling us to defy the words of Theophrastus. Theophrastus believes that marriage is the worse thing to do. Women deceive and are untruthful and that a servant would be more loyal. The differing views of Placebo and Justinus show the split mind of Januarie one view being not to marry and the other just to please him. Personally i think that Chaucer's view would be that of the merchant, as he seems to use his character as a mouthpiece to show his views on marriage. ...read more.

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