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The Merchant's Tale - critical review

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Introduction

In The Canterbury Tales, the Merchant's Tale and the Franklin's Tale have several similarities and differences. Damian, of the Merchant's Tale, and Aurelius, of the Franklin's Tale, are two characters who reflect each other. The two husbands of the tales, Averagus and January, are opposites of each other. Dorigen and May, the wives of the tales, also do not reflect each other. The Merchant's Tale is not a virtuous tale, while the Franklin's Tale is a virtuous tale. In The Merchant's Tale, Damian is the good-looking young man who tempts May to cheat on her husband. May is much younger than her husband, January, and is not impressed with him. "God knows what May was thinking in her heart, seeing him sit there in his shirt apart, wearing his night-cap, with his scrawny throat. She didn't think his games were worth a groat."(373) May becomes bored and tired of January, so she then pursues the younger, better-looking, Damian. May and Damian began having an affair behind January's back and he never found out. ...read more.

Middle

January was very wrong in choosing a younger wife, and in the end of the tale his decision comes back to hurt him. Averagus, of the Franklin's Tale, is a much different man than January is. Averagus is a virtuous man who possesses all the characteristics of a knight and treats his wife with full respect. As the tale describes him, "In Brittany, or as it then was called, Amorica, there was a knight enthralled to love, who served his lady with his best in many a toilsome enterprise and quest, suffering much for ere she was won."(409) January and Averagus are two opposite men, one is immoral and the other is virtuous, but when the tale comes to an end both lose their wife to a squire. The wives of the two tales, May and Dorigen, are also two opposite characters. May is an unfaithful wife who does not agree to the marriage contract that she signed with January. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Franklin's Tale was the opposite of the Merchant's Tale and it was full of virtue. Dorigen's character alone is an example of moral values, and she also had moral feelings. Her choice to make her wish to Aurelius so selfless and for the shipmen was very moral. Averagus, the knight, was also a very virtuous man. His decision to allow Dorigen to fulfill her promise that she made to Aurelius, and let her marry him, was very courageous. "All may be well, but you must keep your word. For, as may God be merciful to me, I rather would be stabbed than live to see you fail in truth. The very love I bear you bids you keep truth, in that it cannot spare you."(429) Dorigen and Averagus are two characters who provide this play with the moral value it needs to win the prize dinner. The Merchant's Tale is one of entertainment and immoral characters that make bad decisions. The Franklin's Tale, on the other hand, is full of virtuous characters that make very respectable choices and decisions. ...read more.

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