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"The merchant's tale presents a thoroughly cynical view of women and marriage" How far do you agree off such a statement as an accurate general description of the Merchant's Tale.

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Introduction

"The merchant's tale presents a thoroughly cynical view of women and marriage" How far do you agree off such a statement as an accurate general description of the Merchant's Tale. It is true to say that the merchant presents a thoroughly cynical view of women and marriage but it is not an accurate general description of the tale. The cynicism is apparent at the very beginning in the Merchant's Prologue. The outburst by the merchant even before the tale opens sets the scene for what is to come: a parody of women and marriage. "I have a wyf, the worste that may be; For thogh he feend to hire ycoupled were, She wolde him overmacche, I dar wel swere" Although the Merchant prepares his audience for a story about a shrewd wife, he begins the Tale with an extended debate about the pros and cons of marriage. The beginning of the tale serves as a warning against marriage. Justinus prophetically warns January that "Or wheither hire thoughte it paradis or helle". There is also a mounting criticism towards women that is inherent in the way Justinus argues his point that a wife, especially a young wife will be his purgatory: "Where she be wys, or sobre, ...read more.

Middle

The merchant presents May as being cold-hearted and manipulative. Whilst January is ravishing May, she is described as being 'as stille as stoon'. There is also suggestion of cynicism towards women that is implicitly and explicitly implied through May's actions and characters' language. When May receives Damian's love letter, she merely shoves it down the toilet. Although this is done with apparent sincerity, it is indeed ironic. The audience would recognize this disparaging action and would immediately reflect this on not only on May, but on women's attitude in general. This cynicism is further demonstrated by Proserpine's attitudes and action. Throughout the entire tale there is a mock en conium of marriage that is consistently evident throughout the tale. Firstly, the reasons for marriage put forth by January are a complete mockery of marriage because his reasons are purely selfish and self-satisfactory. January feels that he should get married merely to avoid sin and to provide him an heir as to which he can give his wealth to. "On which he mighte engendren him an heir, And lede his lyf in joye and in solas" He requests a wife that is 'fair and tendre of age' because `bene-straw and greet forage'. ...read more.

Conclusion

When Proserpine gives May the art of deception, May's surge of confidence is deliverance to the female race. May has successfully had her revenge for January's previous actions. After all, the cynicism towards May and her actions were arisen from January's previous actions. May resorts to cuckolding January because of how January treats her in the beginning: 'buying' her from the market, ravishing her on their wedding night and building a garden so that he may do to her what cannot be done in the house. Therefore by being cynical towards women and marriage, Chaucer is synonymously being cynical to those who exploit marriage and women such as January. The conversation between Pluto and Proserpine underpin this argument because as they discuss the virtues of men and women in marriage, they come to the conclusion that few men are admirable and no women are worthy. Therefore it is fair to say that the merchant's tale presents a thoroughly cynical view of women and marriage but it is equally fair to say that it presents a cynical view of men and those who exploit women and marriage. Stephanie Ko, U6 ...read more.

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