The Canterbury Tales


The Merchant's Tale

The Merchant’s tale also focuses on the marital relationship, and the Merchant’s introduction, in which he speaks very negatively about his own two-month-old marriage, lets the reader believe that the Merchant’s tale will have a negative view of wives.

The Merchant’s tale features an elderly knight named January who decides to take a bride. He is warned against marriage by his friend Justinius, who tells him that women are all unfaithful, but his friend Placebo tells him that he must make up his own mind about marriage. January decides to marry a beautiful young maiden named May. January is not the only man to find May beautiful. Damian, a young knight in January’s service, falls in love with May. He becomes ill when he cannot have her. January, unaware of the reason that Damian is ill, sends May along with other women to Damian to offer him comfort. Damian passes May a love note. May responds with a note to him, saying that she feels the same way.

Fortune intervenes and January suddenly becomes blind. He wants May as his constant companion, which means that she and Damian will not have an opportunity to consummate their attraction. However, May is very devious and manages to give Damian a key to January’s secret garden. When Damian enters the garden, May motions for him to climb a pear tree.

At this point in the story, the Merchant discusses how the gods want to influence the outcome of the story. Pluto is upset that May is trying to deceive January, and says that at the right moment, he will restore January’s sight. However, his wife, Prosepina, says that because men are so lecherous, she will provide May with a believable excuse. The story then shifts back to the garden.

In the garden, May tells January that she wants to eat a pear, and asks to climb onto his back so that she can pick a pear to eat. She climbs into the pear tree, where she and Damian immediately begin having sex. As promised, Pluto restores January’s sight. He looks up and sees Damian having sex with his wife. However,...

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Essays About The Canterbury Tales