Essay on Variety in The Merchant's Tale

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Use of Variety in The Merchant's Tale

The Merchant's Tale tells the story of an old man searching for a wife and finding one, who is ultimately unfaithful to him. Chaucer uses a variety of elements in the poem to show his knowledge of contemporary interests and his story telling capacity through another figure. Irony flows through the poem, laced with allusions to the Bible. Chaucer's use of his astronomical knowledge not only allows modern day scholars to date events, but also adds another dimension of interest for the contemporary audience and of course, the pilgrims.

Januarie's discussion of Heaven and Hell leads to the idea of marriage providing a Heaven on Earth. It is said that a wife is a husband's "paradis terrestre,
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Chaucer's knowledge of astronomy becomes evident at many points during the poem and has been useful for modern scholars wishing to date the Tale. The wedding day has been put down as Lady Day, 25th March 1392. Discussion of astronomy and the sky brings forth more elaborate language as on the evening of the wedding day, the phrase "Parfourned as the sonne his ark diourne" (l.583) introduces the next events of the day. In addition to this, there is always another dimension to the story. The wedding of Januarie and May takes place when Mars and Venus are in conjunction. This combination of the warring god and the god of love cannot bode well for the marriage, especially combined with the heavily ironic emphasis on Januarie's concern for having his Heaven on Earth.

The marriage of May and Januarie brings attention to their names. While the spring month of May is full of life, the winter month of January is a new beginning (to the year), but still contains the cold deadness of winter. Eventually, spring defeats winter. There is a stark contrast between the characters of May and Januarie. The latter's roughness is especially focused upon on the wedding night. His skin is "Lyk to the skyn of houndfyssh" and there is an almost repulsive focus on his appearance. May is a much livelier, younger character and so Damyan, the lovesick squire seems

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