The Merchant’s Tale
Written by Chaucer, the Canterbury Tales has many tales in itself. In this book, pilgrims are to tell their story while on their journey. Of all the tales, the pilgrim who tells the most creative and inventive, of course should be rewarded, and is. One of the many tales told is from a very rich man, the Merchant. He tells a very unique and original tale.
The Merchant tells a tale of a prosperous knight from Lombardy who had not yet taken a wife. Nevertheless, when this knight, January, has turned sixty, whether out of devotion or feebleness, he finally decides to be married. In his search for fresh faces, he is now convinced that the married life was a paradise on earth. Yet, his brother, Justinus, is told that men should not wed, and fears what will come of January?s marriage. To this, the knight responds with Biblical stories that state: a man without a wife is bent on ruin. These stories summon the creation of Eve for Adam as proof that a wife is man’s support, as well as examples of humble and devoted wives. January wishes to have a young wife, no older than twenty. He believes that a young wife would be more willing; Justinus warns him that it takes great courage for such an aged man to take a young wife. He also warns him of the misery that can come from taking a wife.
Despite the common opinion that Justinus has a wonderful wife, he knows what faults she has. They argue about marriage concerning January, stating that it shall last no longer than 3 years. January finally decides to take a young and pretty wife, foolishly believing that nobody would object. He speaks to Justinus and his friends about his choice, praising his intended wife. January, however, worries that a man who finds perfect happiness on earth, as he would with his wife, would never find a similar happiness in heaven. Justinus counters by saying that it is more likely that married men will get to heaven than single men, stating that marriage might be January’s purgatory.
January thus marries his intended, May, in a joyous ceremony. On their wedding night, January forces himself on May, believing himself to be justified because they are now married. However, Damian, January’s squire, is utterly infatuated with May. He writes a love letter to May that he has pinned in a silk purse next to his heart. One day Damian was not tending to January, and to cover for him, the other squires tell January that Damian is sick. May and January go to visit Damian, and during this visit Damian slips May the purse with his love letter. She reads it and then tears it up to destroy the evidence. May takes pity on Damian and gives him a letter in return. Damian feels better the next day, and grooms himself to look presentable for May.
January’s house has a garden so incredibly magnificent that only he is allowed to touch the key to it. This he shares with his wife, May, of whom eventually, January becomes very possessive. This sparks Damian to have great grief. May makes a double of the key to the garden in a wax form which she gives to Damian so that he could meet her in the garden to have sex and also to try to help calm his frustrations.
January comes to the garden looking for May, when Damian has entered and hides. It so happens that at this time Pluto, the king of fairies, and Queen Proserpina are walking in this garden, discussing the injustices between women and men. Through this event, Damian remains in the pear tree, waiting for them to leave. Unsuspectingly, May claims that she was hungry and wants a pear in the same tree Damian has been hiding in. Since January is blind and can not climb the tree, he hoists her so that she can climb to where Damian is hiding. While in the tree, she and Damian have sex. At this point Pluto comes upon the three, witnesses this injustice, and thus, restores January’s sight. Trying to deny what has happened, May tells him that he must still be blind because if he truly had sight he would never have seen her having sex with Damian. She also says that she does it for him because now he can see again. Foolishly, January believed this.
As considered to be slick and sly, the Merchant would be the best pilgrim to tell this type of story. Although the merchant is said to be rich because of his trade, this tasteless tale seems somewhat ironic coming from such a character. In the ?Miller?s Tale?, vulgarity and a classless demeanor are expressed as in this tale. One event to support my opinion in the ?Miller?s Tale? was when Absolom professes his love to the woman of his dreams, and in return asks for a kiss, she places her rear out the window instead of her head. In place of a kiss, to show how much she does not want Absolom?s love, she passes gas in his face. Although quite comical, I believe that both characters fit the tales that they tell.