Comparing and Contrasting "The Merchant's Tale" and "The Franklin's Tale"

Essay by -eQuinOx-High School, 11th grade February 2005

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"The Merchant's Tale" and "The Franklin's Tale" tell about the marriages of two couples. In both tales, the manner by which marriage occurs differs between each couple. Furthermore, the exertion of control over the wives in the tales is also different in each story. Moreover, the loyalty of the wives to their husbands varies greatly between the wives in each tale. In spite of these numerous alterities, the stories both share the theme of sexuality. These tales serve to convey Chaucer's misogamistic and chauvinistic attitudes.

The manner by which marriage occurs between each couple is quite different in the tales.

And when his friends saw that it needs must be

They made a careful marriage-treaty. She,

The girl agreed upon, whose name was May,

(And with the smallest possible delay)

Was to be married to this January. (362)

In "The Merchant's Tale," the lusty and elderly noble January does not go through any courting with his future wife.

Instead, his marriage with May is arranged under contract.

there was a knight enthralled

To love, who served his lady with his best

In many a toilsome enterprise and quest,

Suffering much for here ere she was won. (409)

"The Franklin's Tale" portrays an honorable knight who marries Dorigen, his lady, after courting her for some time, where he earns her love in serving her passionately.

The ways the men in the tales exert control over their wives differ as well in "The Merchant's Tale" and "The Franklin's Tale."

Save that the ineradicable sting

Of jealousy embittered everything,

For so outrageous are the thoughts it rouses

That neither when at home nor in the houses

Of his acquaintance, no, nor anywhere

Would he allow his wife to take the air...