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Discussion - Canterbury Tales > Week 8 - The Merchant's Tale

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments After the Wife of Bath’s, uh, comments on marriage, and the tale of Griselda and the social importance of virginity, we now get yet another look at marriage and relations between the sexes. After bemoaning how terrible his two week long marriage has become, the Merchant addresses marriage in what seems to be a sort of roller coaster fashion, some up, some down, some up, some down, until we – or at least I – get dizzy from trying to figure out, is he for it or agin’ it?

Here we have another prospect of the May-December marriage (remember back to the Miller’s tale, the old carpenter and the young wife?) And we have Boethius sliding into the story again, as Justinius warns that if you do marry in joy, God will make sure you get torn down before you die. And, as we see, he was right.

I keep wondering what a Freudian analyst would make of this series of tales. Any Freudians here who want to take a shot at that?

A final note: as Chaucer wasn’t a bit hesitant in the Knight’s tale to impose the Medieval value system on a pagan tale, so here he isn’t hesitant to bring pagan gods into a discussion of Biblical events. Weird?


message 2: by Bill (last edited Feb 23, 2011 02:36AM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments I think the back and forth, for it or against it, was January weighing in his mind, with the help of historical authorities, whether he should marry.
That part ends with:

So January thought, of whom I told,
Deeply considering as he grew old


Justinius' comments were a favorite part of the story for me. The old man is so excited about getting married that his only fear is that it will be heaven on earth and this will prevent him from heaven in the afterlife. To which Justinian assures him that God,in His mercy, will keep that from happening by making his marriage a purgatory.

I have to admit I laughed too much to be a good man when the fearie king gives January his sight
And his first thought was to behold his love,
He cast his eyes into the tree above
Only to see that Damian had addressed
His wife in ways that cannot be expressed


I love Chaucer's juvenile humor, I can't help myself.
And the way I see it, the old coot had it coming, pushing his old wrinkled body on that young maid. That ain't right.

Regarding Christians quoting pagan scripture, Didn't St. Paul do the same in the New Testament, and didn't most of Christian poets follow suit?


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 186 comments I laughed out-loud at this tale.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 186 comments Everyman wrote: A final note: as Chaucer wasn’t a bit hesitant in the Knight’s tale to impose the Medieval value system on a pagan tale, so here he isn’t hesitant to bring pagan gods into a discussion of Biblical events. Weird?

Yes, that interested me too.



message 5: by Sasha (new)

Sasha I agree with Bill, the old coot did have it coming, but in the end it turned out ok for everyone, in a way.

Chaucer's view of marriage is very jaundiced. I know one shouldn't assume the author's personal views are reflected in his writing, however the dark view of marriage is so prevalent, one can't help but wonder if Chaucer's own marriage was unhappy.


message 6: by Bill (last edited Feb 25, 2011 01:47AM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Sasha wrote: " but in the end it turned out ok for everyone, in a way.
..."


I was thinking the same thing. If May could talk the old guy out of believing his own eyes, after seeing what he saw, from the view he had, then the future looks manageable for all concerned.


message 7: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Hahahaha


message 8: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 25, 2011 01:11PM) (new)

MadgeUK Sasha wrote: Chaucer's view of marriage is very jaundiced. I know one shouldn't assume the author's ..."

Not much is known about Chaucer's marriage but it was an arranged one. They met at court when he was 12 and she was 10 - she was from a more noble family. During their marriage they spent a lot of time apart and this created difficulties. It is thought that the Franklin's Tale details some of the problems they might have had due to having had an arranged, 'strategic', marriage and one which was between a man of a lower rank than the woman. But the tale still paints a picture of a happy marriage and Chaucer wrote movingly about his loneliness when Philippa died.

I think some of what he writes about marriage reflects the views of it in his times, not necessarily his own views of it.


message 9: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Yes, I gather marriage in the upper echelons of society were strategic rather than romantic. I wonder how many de facto couples there were in those days?


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