CANTERBURY TALES--THE MERCHANT AND HIS TALE
[Cross-references included at the bottom of the page]
498. BEIDLER, PETER G. "Chaucer's Merchant and the Tale of January." Costerus 5 (1972):1-25.
Challenges the traditional critical association of Chaucer's Merchant and January of the Merchant's tale. Such an association is based on the invalid a priori assumption that the Canterbury Tales reflect the biographies of their tellers. The Merchant is overtly contemptuous of January, while Justinius's advice correlates with the Merchant's experience. Hence, Justinus, not January, should be associated with the Merchant.
499. BEIDLER, PETER G. "Chaucer's Merchant's Tale and the Decameron." Italica 50 (1973):266-83.
Identifies similarities between Merchant's Tale and two tales of Boccaccio's Decameron (day 2, tale 10, and day 7, tale 9). Characterizing details, especially of January, reflect Chaucer's familiarity with Boccaccio's work rather than his use of it as a direct source.
500. BEIDLER, PETER G. "The Climax in the Merchant's Tale." Chaucer Review 6 (1971):28-43.
Challenges Brown's contention (entry 504) that Damian of Merchant's Tale does not complete the sex act with May, and suggests that Chaucer's adjustment of his sources results in irony. January is doubly foolish because he witnesses his own cuckolding and sees only "what he wants to see."
501. BROWN, EMERSON, Jr. "Biblical Women in the Merchant's Tale: Feminism, Antifeminism, and Beyond." Viator 5 (1974): 387-412.
Argues that Chaucer does not allow the Merchant's cynical misogyny to stand unchallenged. The Merchant debases traditonally exemplary women yet his references to them and to the Virgin remind the audience "of a love greater than anything the Merchant is capable of comprehending."
502. BROWN, EMERSON, Jr. "Chaucer and a Proper Name: January in the Merchant's Tale." Names 31 (1983):79-87.
Identifies the rich and complex associations of the name January in Merchant's Tale. Like the Roman god, Janus, January is associated with keys, vision, and financial success, as well as with winter and old age.
503. BROWN, EMERSON, Jr."Chaucer, the Merchant, and Their Tale: Getting Beyond Old Controversies." Chaucer Review 13 (1978- 79):141-56, 247-62.
Part I undercuts critics' observations of inconsistency between the Merchant's Prologue and Tale by demonstrating the common attitude toward women, common imagery, and similar, cynical voice of the two. Part II hypothesizes whether or not the Merchant's voice is really Chaucer's own.
504. BROWN, EMERSON, Jr. "Hortus Inconclusus: The Significance of Priapus and Pyramus and Thisbe in the Merchant's Tale." Chaucer Review 4 (1970):31-40.
Assesses allusions to Priapus and Pyramus and Thisbe at the end of the Merchant's Tale carry associations evident in traditional commentaries that suggest not only eroticism but ridicule of sexual frustration, especially Damyan's. Challenged in entry 500.
505. BROWN, EMERSON, Jr."The Merchant's Tale: Januarie's 'Unlikely Elde'." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 74 (1973):92-106.
Significant details in Chaucer's depiction of January not only create a sharp word picture but, set against medieval ideas about old age, also imply "self-deception" and "calculated futility."
506. BUGGE, JOHN. "Damyan's Wanton Clyket and an Ironic Twiste to the Merchant's Tale." Annuale Mediaevale 14 (1973):53-62.
Documents the sexual innuendoes of several punning words in the Merchant's Tale ("clyket," "wyket," and "twiste") and suggests that they emphasize the "phallic motif" of the tale, at heart, a "very elemental sexual joke."
507. BURNLEY, J.D. "The Morality of "The Merchant's Tale." Yearbook of English Studies 6 (1976):16-25.
Covert references and direct allusions to the marriage liturgy in the Merchant's Tale contrast the tale's dominant concern with sensual pleasure, thereby establishing an inescapeable "standard for moral judgement" of the characters and their actions.
508. CAHN, KENNETH S. "Chaucer's Merchants and the Foreign Exchange: An Introduction to Medieval Finance." Studies in the Age of Chaucer 2 (1980):81-119.
Details the international monetary practice--banking, exchange, and lending--of fourteenth century Europe, identifying types of coins, rates of exchange, and kinds of transactions to clarify the relative success and honesty of Chaucer's merchants, especially his Merchant-pilgrim.
509. DALBEY, MARCIA A. "The Devil in the Garden: Pluto and Proserpine in Chaucer's Merchant's Tale." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 75 (1974):408-15.
Identifies the allegorical implications of Pluto and Proserpine in the Merchant's Tale: their demonic character derived from Christian tradition, and from Ovide moralise, their embodiment of lust. As such, the gods dictate the actions of the humans in the tale and direct our interpretation.
510. GROVE, ROBIN. "The Merchant's Tale: Seeing, Knowing and Believing." Critical Review 18 (1976):23-38.
Responds sensitively to the rich shifts in tone and attitude in Merchant's Tale, noting how the poetry suggests and counteracts various possible assessments of January, May, and the Merchant, leading to a complex sense of the limits of human perspective and knowledge.
511. HARRINGTON, NORMAN T. "Chaucer's Merchant's Tale: Another Swing of the Pendulum." PMLA 86 (1971):25-31.
Examines the tone and details of Merchant's Tale for the way they characterize the Merchant, reading the tale as a unified, sustained expresson of a derisive voice. The "Juvenalian bitterness" and "pervasive linguistic violence" of the tale align well with its "heightened awareness of sex, particularly in its more ugly, violent, and repellant forms."
512. OTTEN, CHARLOTTE F. "Proserpine: Libratrix suae gentis." Chaucer Review 5 (1971):277-87.
Establishes the typological value of Rebecca, Judith, Abigail, and Esther of Merchant's Tale as "deliverance types," and argues that both Proserpine and May are comic deliverers as well. Finds no bitterness in the tale.
513. PARK, B.A. "The Character of Chaucer's Merchant." English Language Notes 1 (1964):167-75.
Examines the syntax and social backgrounds of Chaucer's portrait of the Merchant to show that, contrary to traditional interpretation, he represents a "typical medieval man of affairs," well to do, and concerned with international finance.
514. PITTOCK, MALCOLM. "The Merchant's Tale." Essays in Criticism 17 (1967):26-40.
Argues that the Merchant misunderstands the implications of his own tale, a narrative about the "nature of, and the relation between different kinds of lechery" which he offers only as a condemnation of marriage. The Merchant's distortions and intrusions reveal Chaucer's dramatic subtlety.
515. ROBERTSON, D.W., Jr. "The Doctrine of Charity in Medieval Literary Gardens." Speculum 26 (1951):24-49.
Traces the allegorical value of medieval literary gardens from Beowulf to Chaucer's Merchant's Tale, demonstrating from patristic evidence that such gardens are used "to condemn or satirize cupidity and hold forth Charity as an ideal. Echoing the Songs of Songs, the garden of January inverts this ideal and reflects the tale's serious morality.
516. ROSENBERG, BRUCE A. "The 'Cherry-Tree Carol' and the Merchant's Tale." Chaucer Review 5 (1971):264-76.
Explores Biblical allusions and popular religious motifs in Merchant's Tale, arguing that the so-called Cherry-Tree Carol of Mary's pregnancy conflates with allusions to Song of Solomon and other Biblical texts to account for May's desire for fruit and January's blindness at the end of Chaucer's tale.
517. SCHROEDER, MARY C. "Fantasy in the Merchant's Tale." Criticism 12 (1970):167-79.
Interprets January of Merchant's Tale as the Merchant's "projective self-indulgence," arguing that the Merchant castigates January's "self-delusion" so grotesquely as to suggest his own lack of balance. January submits to fantasy, but the Merchant fails to see that his overly aggressive realism implies its own kind of fantasy.
518. SHORES, DAVID L. "The Merchant's Tale: Some Lay Observations. Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 71 (1970):119-33.
Confronts major criticism of Merchant's Tale and argues that attempts to read it only as a part of the Marriage Group or as an expression of the Merchant's character deemphasize its value as a "humorous story about how youth and age do not mix well in marriage."
519. STEVENS, MARTIN. "'And Venus Laughteth': An Interpretation of the Merchant's Tale." Chaucer Review 7 (1972):118-31.
Challenges the critical view that Merchant's Tale is bitter and anti-matrimonial, reading its Prologue as good-natured exaggeration, and the Tale as a response to the Wife of Bath, not a commentary on the Merchant's own marriage.
520. TATLOCK, J.S.P. "Chaucer's Merchant's Tale." Modern Philology 33 (1935):367-81. Reprinted in Chaucer Criticism, Volume I: The "Canterbury Tales," ed. by Richard J. Schoeck and Jerome Taylor (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1960), pp. 175-89; and Geoffrey Chaucer: Merchant's Tale, ed. by Robert J. Blanch, Merrill Literary Casebook Series (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 43-56.
Explicates the "unrelieved acidity" of the Merchant's Tale, detailing January's repulsiveness and characterizing May and Damyan as "paper dolls." The bitterness of the tale is made even sharper by brilliant style and dramatic and verbal irony.
521. TUCKER, EDWARD F.J. "'Parfite Blisses Two': January's Dilemma and the Themes of Temptation and Doublemindedness in the Merchant's Tale." American Benedictine Review 33 (1982):172-81.
Traces the theme of spiritual "doublemindedness" in Merchant's Tale to the epistle of St. James, discusses its development in Bede, and its late-medieval popularity. January, onomastically two-faced, properly worries about his spiritual state, but as reflected in the characters of Justinus and Placebo, he is unable to "distinguish between noble and base desire."
522. VON KREISLER, NICHOLAI. "An Aesopic Allusion in the Merchant's Tale." Chaucer Review 6 (1971):30-37.
Explains January's reference to a "panyer ful of herbes" in Merchant's Tale by means of an episode from Life of Aesop, arguing that Chaucer must have known an oral version of Aesop, and showing how the allusion helps characterize January and echoes elsewhere in Merchant's Tale.
523. WENTERSDORF, KARL P. "Theme and Structure in the Merchant's Tale: The Function of the Pluto Episode." PMLA 80 (1965):522-27.
Demonstrates the value and function of the Pluto/Proserpina episode in Merchant's Tale, indicating how it emphasizes the weaknesses of both sexes in marriage, enhances suspense, and combine with several allusions to help unify the tale and imply that the marriage has elements of rape about it. The episode underscores January's faults.
See also 141, 159, 240, 260, 322. For sources and analogues: 169, 187, 252, 308-09, 313; relations to other tales: 323-28, 477, 484, 555.
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