Chaucer's Poetry

Forbidden Love: A Comparison of "The Merchants Prologue and Tale" and "The Duchess of Malfi" 11th Grade

Despite the varying contexts with which they wrote their work, as well as the vastly different tone and content, both Chaucer in ‘The Merchants Tale’ and Webster through ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ explore the theme of forbidden love- or forbidden lust- and its attractions and implications. Whilst Chaucer’s humorous fabliau of adultery and grotesque miss-matches certainly contrasts with the twisted tale of status and gender imbalance in Webster’s tragedy, both writers appear to indicate in their respective texts the contradicting forces of the negative consequences of forbidden relationships, as well as their intense magnetism.

Chaucer, through the relationship between May and Damyan, explores the concept that a romance’s main attraction could be its forbidden nature. Damyan’s ‘love’ for May is most often described in the pain he experiences by not being with her, such as his ‘langwissheth for love’ and the attraction. Whilst May’s character seems to be predominantly motivated by lust- at the first opportunity she gets her and Damyan “had dressed/ in swich manere it may nat been expressed”, implying that their romance is driven by sexual impulse rather than romantic love. Chaucer’s poetry being a fabliaux, the characters are not...

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