Claire Gittoes

 What is the Merchant like?

In the general Prologue the portrait of the merchant is like the man himself, not straightforward. He is described having, “a forked berd, In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat; Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat, His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.” His forked beard is an indication of his fashionable nature but also overtones of the devil; in addition it could symbolize his duplicity, at which Chaucer only hints. He is well dressed, in a very business like way, with his clothes being the height of fashion, the “bever hat” and “his bootes clasped faire and fetisly.”

Chaucer does depending on ones interpretation; persuade the reader not to take the Merchant on his own valuation. The presentation of the Merchant is secretive and dignified: “his social status, bolstered by his apparent wealth, is high.” He occupies the middle position of the social strata of the Pilgrims, but he is clearly on the way up, the description of him sat high on his horse possibly an indication of his rising social status. However, Chaucer intentionally provides the Merchant with a fabliau tale, which are typically told my Peasants. This indicates that although the Merchant may appear to be or think that he is rising in status, he still possesses lower class characteristics and ideas.

  In addition, the Merchant is an ignorant misogynist 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. He talks weightily mostly about his growing profits, and is anxious for the sea lanes to be kept open between Orewelle and Middelburgh, to serve his trade, “He wolde the see were kept for anything Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.” However, he is a very efficient businessman he knew how to deal foreign currencies, buy and sell, “Well Koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle. This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette,” but behind his impressive exterior, however, lies the fact that he is in debt, “Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette.” We admire the merchant because we perceive his attractive dress and middle-class wealth; however, we question his character because we cannot physically see the process of his trades. He depends on the audience’s acceptance that he is a wise trader to affect its judgments of him.

Join now!

Despite being a fashionable businessman and a successful financial expert, he is a terribly unhappy husband, “I have a , the worste that may be.” Critics have painted him as a disillusioned man full of hatred and contempt because of his unhappy relationship with his wife, he says in the Prologue to his tale that if his wife were to marry the devil she would overmatch even him, “For thogh the  to hire ycoupled were, She sholde hym , I dar wel swere.” There is evidence that the Merchant hates women and has a disillusioned view of marriage by connecting his experiences ...

This is a preview of the whole essay