• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discuss Chaucer's use of variety in The Merchant's Prologue and Tale.

Extracts from this document...


Discuss Chaucer's use of variety in The Merchant's Prologue and Tale. The Merchant's Tale tells the story of an old man searching for a wife and finding one, who is ultimately unfaithful to him. Chaucer uses a variety of elements in the poem to show his knowledge of contemporary interests and his story telling capacity through another figure. Irony flows through the poem, laced with allusions to the Bible. Chaucer's use of his astronomical knowledge not only allows modern day scholars to date events, but also adds another dimension of interest for the contemporary audience and of course, the pilgrims. Januarie's discussion of Heaven and Hell leads to the idea of marriage providing a Heaven on Earth. It is said that a wife is a husband's "paradis terrestre, and his disport" (l. 120), but at the introduction of the idea of a paradise, the reader can begin to contemplate the introduction of a serpent at a later point. Chaucer uses heavy irony as Januarie worries about experiencing his only Heaven on Earth. It becomes evident that May is anything but his Heaven. ...read more.


The search for wife was based on a want for a companion and all that comes with marriage, rather than love and affection. Although no original story has been found, Chaucer uses various pieces of existing literature as parts of his Tale. "Mirror of Marriage" by Deschamps and "Liber Consolationis" by Albertano both add incidents to the story. The inclusion of references to contemporary works of literature allows the speaker to comment on the opinions held by others on the institution of marriage. "A trewe servant dooth more diligence/ Thy good to kepe, than thyne owene wyf" (l. 86) says Theophrastus. Again irony is used as Damyan, Januarie's servant, takes good care of his master's goods, that is, his wife. Some literary devices occur time and time again in the Tale as a motif. Irony is present throughout as are Biblical references. Another less common recurrence in the poem is the use of "warm wex" . While Januarie wishes his wife to be pliable; controllable by himself, the use of warm wax creeps back later to his disadvantage as the malleability of warm wax can also represent the waywardness of women. ...read more.


The economic concerns he shows for the match not only highlight this, but also his threatening lack of emotion that he is prepared to commit to the marriage. Rather than a child, he hopes for an heir, seeing only economic opportunity in any offspring. His fianc�e can hope for little love for herself or any children. The suffocating nature of Januarie's so-called love for "fresshe May" means that he is unable to think of anyone else being with her. He would wish her to be "soul as the turtle that lost hath hire make". This extreme emotion only serves to heighten the irony of the affair that ensues and the previous Biblical references to women who cheated their husbands. The uncertainty caused by the fact that even the Church bids brides "be lyk Sarra and Rebekke" adds to air of uneasiness that little can be trusted. The dramatic irony that comes with the image of "warm wex" shows the hidden power of May, that Januarie knew nothing about. He is unaware that she has equal knowledge of the usefulness of warm wax and uses it to copy the key to the garden for Damyan. The deviousness of the wife is menacing as she is almost a champion of the image that has previously been so repulsive to the reader. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Geoffrey Chaucer section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. "What do the first 149 lines of the Merchant's prologue and Tale tell us ...

    We cannot establish a clear narrative voice; for example the panegyric to marriage could be the Merchant or the Knight. The narrators attitude intervenes January's word and thought mediated by a voice opposed to his views perhaps that of the Merchant for example, he ironically displays a bachelors life as

  2. By examining the different elements of humour in The Miller's Tale, show how Chaucer ...

    Another reason is the nature of the tale; the fabliau genre of the tale is typically the same normal narrative with the same type of characters (ie the cuckhold, the student) so its hard to empathise with a tale with typical generic conventions, such as fabliaux tales.

  1. Remind yourself of the portrait of the Franklin and his prologue and discuss the ...

    "or elles redden hem for hir plesaunce", this links back to the previous suggestions associated with him and his love to please people. Within the Franklin's prologue, another of the integral themes within the poem are raised, that one being the issue of Truth versus Illusion.

  2. "In The Merchant's Prologue and Tale Chaucer presents a world dominated by money and ...

    taking on Damyan, this is precursor for Januarie's garden which facilitates Maye and Damyan's affair; Januarie's creation of a pleasure garden is presented to us as an extension of a cashbox in which the key is the all-important possession. It is damaging to Januarie's honour that he has been cuckolded

  1. What are the arguments of the Wife of Bath in relation to marriage? How ...

    There are critiques that state that The Wife of Bath tale is not suitable for the Prologue, especially to its teller, the Wife of Bath. Some people, in addition, suggest that "Chaucer may have originally written the fabliau that became The Shipman's Tale for the Wife of Bath, [which] develops

  2. How does the tale of the Merchant reflect the character of the Merchant himself?

    very own identification turns back on the Merchant as his own narrative progressively reveals January not only as a misogynist but a violent man. Furthermore the discourse of commerce that permeates the tale creates another level of association between the Merchant and January's deplorable behavior that reflects negatively on the speaker.

  1. Chaucer - The story of Januarie's marriage to May and her subsequent infidelity with ...

    Placebo sycophantically echoes the only concerns in Januarie's mind for a young and mouldable wife. While Januarie firmly believes that marriage is the road to a joyful life, Chaucer later allows the bachelor to have a good time while the married man suffers.

  2. Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Merchant's Tale" - Commentary.

    January's garden has been compared to the "hortus conclusus" of the Song of Songs, an image usually interpreted in Chaucer's time as symbolic of the Virgin, whose chaste fertility yields Jesus (see RC 888). What does this garden contain, and what does the presence of Pluto and Proserpina do to this symbolic setting?

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work