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The merchant's tale, is a tale about marriage, and it is told using different authoritative voices. Like a set of Russian dolls, it comes across in layers that give different aspects to the main story.

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Introduction

The merchant's tale, is a tale about marriage, and it is told using different authoritative voices. Like a set of Russian dolls, it comes across in layers that give different aspects to the main story. In the Merchant's tale, opinions and behaviour vary, creating a debate about marriage, and also giving a satirical view on love and marriage in that era. In the tale there is Chaucer, who is the omniscient narrator; the merchant who narrates this tale, a clever and perhaps unethical man who is unhappily married, and then there are Januarie's views. Januarie, the main character of the tale has decided he wants to get married. He is portrayed as a foolish old man with very idealistic ideas about marriage. ...read more.

Middle

He is obsequious and a sycophant. His advice is so good that it cannot be taken seriously, and only a fool would. There are no words of wisdom in his speech. There is an irony when he explains how he has earned his status as a highly regarded adviser to 'lordes of ful heigh estaat': 'Yet I never with noon of hem debaat I nevere hem contraried, trewely;' It is seen that Placebo never contradicts his lords, nor does he try to be seen as cleverer than them, he always agrees with their ideas and opinions. This makes his advice doubtful and questions his motivations and his real intentions towards his brother. Justinus on the other hand tries to give Januarie more logical advice, he in turn quotes Seneca, ' 'Seith that a man oghte him right wel avise To whom he yeveth his lond or his catel.' ...read more.

Conclusion

Januarie has already made up his mind and will only listen to what he wants to hear. Justinus's views on marriage seem to echo the views of the merchant narrating the tale, both unhappily married, and both wary of women, this also takes away his credibility as a good advisor, because the tale is being told by the merchant, and seen from his point of view. The advice of Januarie's brothers is so contrasting, that the brothers come across as the 'good angel' and the 'bad angel' when presenting their facts. The presence of Januarie's brothers in this tale, their names, and their views help to put the tale in different frames, giving it different layers, and also keeping ongoing the debate on marriage, though not for Januarie's benefit. ...read more.

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