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

"In The Merchant's Prologue and Tale Chaucer presents a world dominated by money and possessions" to what extent do you agree?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Wednesday, 12 March 2003 Jad Salfiti A2 English Literature, Poetry: The Merchant's Tale "In The Merchant's Prologue and Tale Chaucer presents a world dominated by money and possessions" to what extent do you agree? Money and possessions are continually resurfacing themes in The Merchant's Prologue and Tale. The Merchant's Tale has a subtle mind behind the narration, as an audience we are never sure whether the tale is being narrated by the Merchant or Chaucer himself. In the general Prologue the portrait of the merchant is unfavourable; the Merchant an ignorant, misogyist who is obsessed with money and financial gain, his insensitivity in this regard permeates the tale in his belief that everything has a price tag tied around its neck. Januarie's reasons for marriage are entirely self-serving; concern for his soul and a desire for a youg, beautiful wife who will satisfy his needs with minimum maintenance, both achieved in one fell swoop. Januarie treats the acquisition of a wife like the purchase of property "Thanne is a wyf the fruyt of his tresor" he constantly brings in financial imagery, the recurring economic motive reveal Januarie's view of marriage as a financial contract or animal passion, but as nothing of greater value. From a linguistic perspective Januarie's lexis persistently contains economic undertones "'Ne Take now wyf,' qoud he, 'for Housbondrye,', As for to spare in household thy dispense", here Januarie uses wordplay to state the benefits of marriage, such as to economise household expenditures. ...read more.

Middle

Januarie selects a woman without property or status, thinking this will guarantee his control over her. This reflects the social and cultural and an attitude of the time where title is equated with nobility and personal wealth is tied with respectability. When looking for a wife January literally 'shops' for the girl who will be fortunate enough to become his bride. Januarie's preferences for a wife are shown like a 'shopping list'. He places much stress on his prospective wife's age "she shal not passe twenty yeer, certayn". There is a sense of economics in the way January has chosen a younger wife to compensate for his old age. Januarie explains his penchant for a young wife in particularised language "a yong thyng may men gye, right as men may warm wex with hands plye" Januarie has delusions of pygmalionism: the state of being in love with an object of one's own creation, Maye is his manufacture. Januarie's language is saturated with fiscal metaphor, metaphor is used to defamiliarise the audience; while he thinks about what his wife will look like, he describes the experience as though one has taken a mirror, polished bright and set it in "commune market-place, Thanne sholde he se ful many a figure pace", women are like cattle to Januarie, Januarie values women in accordance to their beauty. ...read more.

Conclusion

Januarie uses bribery at a mid-nuptial stage to prevent Maye from cuckolding him; "heritage, toun and tour" are used as a bargaining item. Januarie tells Maye she can attain these three things if she remains faithful. We see how Januarie is unable to distinguish between the spiritual and the material; he has bound them up together. Januarie combines a spiritual field with the diction of property and law, the concrete is fused with the abstract. The reader is never allowed to forget that Maye has ultimately sold her body for money; women become 'objects' and 'commodities'. Marriage through the Merchant eyes is equated with the giving away of good s. The Merchant's Tale and Prologue is submerged with monetary metaphor and financial imagery, and it is therefore difficult to underplay the importance of money and possessions in this medieval world. However we are reminded that money and possessions are purely material and the love of a wife for a husband and visa-versa cannot be bought they must be earned through the Christian quality of gentillesse. Januarie can buy anything with his money on a material level, however he cannot buy time, for his clock is ticking and he is growing "oold and hoor". For this reason I believe The Merchant's Tale is more about the worthlessness of money when stared in the face of time. The Merchant's Tale is didactic and what the reader should take from it is the importance of having spiritual wealth as opposed to material wealth. ...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. "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

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

    It appears that the Knight present values are a stark contrast to his younger life. Here a bachelor's life is depicted as one of misery and instability. One concern of the narrative form is projected through lines 55 and onwards.

  1. The Marriage Debate.

    It is when Januarie becomes blind that we learn of his much more possessive nature with regard to nature. He would rather have May dead than any other man touch her. Chaucer builds up the dramatic tension by describing May's desperation for a younger partner who is more emotionally in

  2. In what ways does the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale explore issues of ...

    For example, within lines 4 - 6 she says 'For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,/ Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,/ Housbondes at chirche dore I have had five'. By stating that her first marriage was at the age of twelve and that she has

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

    This idea is continued when the Franklin is rude enough to interrupt the squire mid-speech; however the manner in which he does it is filled with courtesy and skill. The Franklin explains that the tale he is about to tell is going to be exciting and pleasurable for the audience,

  2. 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.

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

    The Merchant's apparently unwitting intrusion of commercial linguistic patterns becomes the verbal equivalent of the attitudes about women as property, displayed by the knight, who believes he can purchase marital contentment. January is well aware that his 'great prosperitee' will enable him to buy the bride he desires despite his advanced years.

  2. "A profoundly poignant evocation of love and loss" to what extent do you agree ...

    recollection his love his expressed through the immense pride he feels for her bravery. Therefore despite the contrasting nature of both memories, feelings of love and loss are both evident. Dunn's dependence on past memories suggests he is becoming considerably isolated and lonely, further highlighting the poignancy of his situation.

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