The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer’s Portrayal of the Merchant and Attitudes on Marriage in the Merchant's "Prologue" 12th Grade

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in the late 14th Century, featuring several tales loosing linked together that revolve around typical medieval lifestyles, virtues and preoccupations with many modern day parallels. In the Merchant’s Prologue, the Merchant’s attitude is imposed by distaste for the sacrament of marriage, which he describes as a form of “cursedness”, ironically reverting the conventional idea of marriage being a blessed sacrament. He implicitly stresses throughout that it is nothing but an emotional detriment to men, especially with Chaucer’s use of the semantic field of despair - “sorwe”, “care”, “soore”, “wepyng and waylaying” - so that the reader is absolutely aware about the Merchant’s fixated perspective, being that marriage will arise only these melancholic emotions. His language contains a regular rhyme metre that is flexible and enables the words to flow easily as the pilgrims journey to Canterbury. His sustained bitter tone carries his negative interpretation that is a consequence of the dislike for his wife, becoming increasingly self-pitying throughout. Having been married a mere two months (“monthes two”), enduring pain throughout each wake and sleep of this period, the merchant is so far...

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