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Why do you think Chaucer included Justinus and Placebo? What does the latter's debate contribute

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Introduction

Why do you think Chaucer included Justinus and Placebo? What does the latter's debate contribute to the overall Tale? A number of factors come together to distance the reader from the characters in the tale, not least the complicated and ambiguous series of lenses through which they are viewed. They are all types or allegories to lesser or greater degrees. Justinus and Placebo are examples are personification allegories, representing the abstract properties of good and bad advice. This is drawn from court satire and contemporary advice literature in which the recipient, usually a prince, is told how to choose good counsellors and to avoid flatters whose motive is the advancement of their own careers. This element in the tale may have some topical resonance for Chaucer's original audience as the King at the time, Richard II, notoriously surrounded himself with self-seeking young favourites against the advice of the elder statesmen at court. The background behind these constructs can be best seen by examining the extracts in which the characters appear. ...read more.

Middle

Placebo specifically offers flattery, expressing the view that wise men should not presume to advise their elders and social superiors if they want to get on in life. Both Placebo and Justinus act as the Good and Evil Angels and allegorise the two opinions passing through Januarie's own mind. However, the Merchant's reference line 280 to 'a court-man' also meaning flatter refers to him not being an adviser but a sycophant, presents a very cynical and critical view of courtiers. Line 285, "Yet hadde I nevere with noon of hem debaat." Translated, as "I have never been disagreed with any of them" is a perfect summary of the sycophant's profession. The speaker becomes repetitive and is falling over himself to prove agreeable as the perfect reflexion of January's own thoughts. January then turns to Justinus for advice, Line 311, "Senek, amonges othere wordes wise, Seith that a man oghte him right wel advise/ To whom he yeveth his lond or catel." ...read more.

Conclusion

It was universally believed that the soul might go through a period of punishment in the afterlife to atone for sins on earth. Dante, whose Poetry Chaucer knew well, visited both Purgatory and Paradise after his first visionary trip to the Inferno. Line: 462-9 Justinus puts January in his place. He states, as January's fear had implied, the medieval view that even within bonds of matrimony too great emphasis upon the carnal element is displeasing to God. This reveals Justinus an allegorical figure represents truth-telling, shares views and experience of marriage as well as a certain abruptness of manner, which coincide with those of the Merchant narrator. Justinus can therefore be described as the Merchant's surrogate in the tale. Furthermore, Justinus' refusal to refer to learned authorities to support his argument, in order to save time, dramatises a certain exasperation with the futility of trying to convince a deluded character like January. With all this in mind, what do the two constructs add to the tale? Primarily they both add to the marriage debate. ...read more.

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