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

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

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How does the tale of the Merchant reflect the character of the Merchant himself? Soumik Datta, Essay 4, 10 December, 2003 By including a merchant among the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer brought to bear across the entire interpretive range of his poem, an aspect of his personal experience of London that had deep resonances for an England in the process of developing its own mercantile character and accommodating itself to the burgeoning of fourteenth century continental mercantilism. Chaucer underscored the contemporary conditions in which through social station and occupation he was personally enmeshed, by including in various tales, characters who are merchants. The careful punctuation of the Canterbury Tales with figures with figures representative of the merchant class should alert modern readers to the social, political and moral tensions that permeated fourteenth century London society resulting from emerging market conditions. It is no accident that the 'Merchant's Tale' like the 'Clerk's Tale' is set in Lombardy. One can see in the relationship of the two tales, at least three kinds of association: hearing the 'Clerk's Tale' might simply have caused the merchant to think of the story he knew about the Lombardy in his experience. ; the behavior of Walter and Griselda might also have reminded him by contrast rather than comparison of his own Italian tale of marriage; finally the Merchant might have consciously balanced the Clerk's account of aristocratic values and behaviors against his own account of the business-like deportment of January. ...read more.

Middle

The Merchant follows the words quoted above with a lengthy and impassioned discourse on the benefits and drawbacks of taking a wife. His commercial language continually reveals the devaluation of women as property even as he professes to speak on the inestimable worth of wives: 'A wyf is Godess yifte verraily;/ Alle other manere yfte hardily, /As londes, rentes, pasture, or commune, /Or moebles-alle been yftes of Fortune/ That passen as a shadwe upon a wall'. When he finally returns to his account of January' search for a wife the Merchant provides a list of requirements for a wife which January recites to his friends. Here the narrative even while shifting voice remains within a world of male assessment of prospective female property. Chaucer forcefully underscores this fact by sustaining here, as elsewhere in the tale, references to eating, to the woman as food and the husband as consumer - he who both eats and spends wastefully. January himself reflects that 'bet than old boef is the tender veel'. The eating imagery becomes directly tied to January's concern about heirs when he remarks that 'were me levere houndes had me eten/ Than that myn heritage sholde falle/ In straunge hand'. It is January's assumption that the world of marriage arrangements like the world of commerce is one in which one must eat or be eaten: it is the role of the powerful male to provide for his appetites and to protect his possessions. ...read more.

Conclusion

of his experience with trade and his familiarity with the language of commerce - in turn drawing attention to the fact that the air in fourteenth-century England was full of different conceptions of social order that traversed traditionally understood categories in uncomfortable ways and could not be neatly compartmentalized. If feudal hierarchies and sexual boundaries and religious discourse and classical social systems were to some extent becoming brittle, fragmented, or even supplanted in Chaucer's world, one can imagine that for the poet it would be precisely the voice of the Merchant-with his professional experience of the world - that could highlight this disintegration by negotiating the spaces in between and thereby challenging these inherited systems. In his own social position, Chaucer must have experienced firsthand the collision of different ways of imagining social relations. He probably saw in mercantile interactions a powerful demonstration of the possibility that new market based social relations could transect, puncture or even replace feudal and religious social assumptions in ways previously unimaginable. For Chaucer the public citizen and employee of the crown the social role of merchants may have put into high relief the potential for enormous social flux which Chaucer the poet would seek to engage imaginatively through the voice of the 'Forked Berd[ed]' Merchant. Aers, David Chaucer 1986 Knapp, Peggy Chaucer and the Social Contest 1990 Strohm, Paul Social Chaucer 1989 Thrupp, Sylvia The Merchant Class of Medieval London 1948 ...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. Marked by a teacher

    Who are the targets for 'Wycherley's satire' in 'The Country Wife' and how does ...

    4 star(s)

    Fidget and his sister with him, he knows that Horner is a man supposedly suffering from a disease and yet Sir Jasper finds this hilariously funny and a reason for taunting Horner 'hahaha! I'll plague him yet.' He taunts him to assert his own superiority over him but also to off-load on to Horner his social responsibilities as a husband.

  2. The Role of Women in the Miller's and Merchant's Tale.

    He is just a better, convenient alternative. We know she cares not for Damien as when she receives a love-letter from him she easily disposes it in the privy. It is easy to see that her motivation for adultery is really one of revenge and not out of affection for Damien.

  1. Show how a character from "The Tall Woman and Her Short Husband" and one other ...

    Like The Tall Woman and Her Short Husband" the author uses quotations with descriptions of how the officials say the following things they say. This gives the reader a knowing about the tone of the conversation which allows the reader to be more implicated The question asked which was why

  2. "The merchant's tale presents a thoroughly cynical view of women and marriage" How far ...

    The merchant is cynical of women in the Bible as well as the Greek goddess Proserpine and Griselda in the initial outburst of the merchant. Pluto tells his wife of her 'untrouthe and brotilnesse'. The tale concentrates on women who have been unfaithful to their husbands such like Rebekka and

  1. What Does The Poem "My Last Duchess" Reveal About The Dukes Attitudes Towards Women?

    This is firstly hinted at the very start of the poem when we find out that even now, the Duke keeps the picture of his last Duchess hidden away behind a curtain, and then further shown when he talks about the painter and his wife.

  2. The Merchant's Tale - critical review

    Look; on the day the coasts of Brittany are stone by stone cleared of these hateful rocks by you, so that no ship or vessel docks in danger."(416) The rocks disappear and Aurelius proclaims Dorigen as his wife. In both tales, the Merchant's Tale and the Franklin's Tale, the squires

  1. Did Attitudes Towards the Status of Women and Marriage Change in the Late- Middle ...

    She had out lived three husbands by the age of eleven. There was also the problem of incest among very rich and noble families who wished for 'pure blooded children'. The actual union between two people changed throughout the Middle Ages, as it was possible to be married without an actual ceremony.

  2. Discuss how at least three authors during the mid to late Nineteenth Century explore ...

    no status without a man to support the household to give them the name. The writer of "The Parvenue" shows a clash of class between the two main characters, the narrator and her husband with her unappreciative family. The writer enables the reader to see in the position of the

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