A Comaprison of the Miller's Tale and Merchant's Tale

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Comparing Miller's Tale and Merchant's Tale

Alison in the Miller's Tale and May of the Merchant's Tale are similar in several ways. Both are young women who have married men much older than themselves. They both become involved with young, manipulative men. They also conspire to and do cuckold their husbands. This is not what marriage is about and it is demonstrated in both tales. What makes the Miller's Tale bawdy comedy and the Merchant's tale bitter satire is in the characterization. In the Miller's tale we are giving stereotyped characters. The principals are cardboard cut-outs sent into farcical motion. The Merchant's Tale gives us much more background and detail of the character's lives. The reader is more involved and can
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1851-53). This quote follows distasteful descriptions of January who eagerly awaits May in bed. The reader is privy to none of this with Alison.

It does not take much persuasion on Nicholas' part to talk Alison into having an affair with her. The idea of tricking her husband is a game for her. With impish delight she conspires with Nicholas the outlandish plot of convincing her husband that a great flood is coming. With her husband safety ensconced in a bathtub hanging from the roof, Alison plays with Nicholas. And it is play for then we have the "kissing" scene with Absalom. Alison is having fun with the whole situation, it is just a great time for her.

May does not love Damien any more than she loves January. He is just a better, convenient alternative. We know she cares not for Damien as when she receives a love-letter from him she easily disposes it in the privy. It is easy to see that her motivation for adultery is really one of revenge and not out of affection for Damien. January assaulted her by the mere fact of marrying her. This is satire on the whole theme of courtly love. This feeling of revenge on her part is further demonstrated in the cuckold scene.

May deceives January quite wickedly in the garden. Yet for the reader we can not fault her for it. January has that garden for the purpose of licentious behavior. It is there so he can have May sexually in the way he wants her. She
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