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The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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16: The Merchant's Tale Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. Describe the trickery and deception used to dupe January.

2. What is the literary genre of The Merchant's Tale?

3. What elements of the romance are incorporated?

4. What is the theme of this tale?

5. What is this story saying about marriage?

6. What does the Merchant reveal about his own marriage in his prologue?

7. Who sympathizes with him?

8. What is the significance of the names of the husband and wife in this tale?

9. What is the function of the advisors to the old knight?

10. Why is it appropriate that this tale be told by the Merchant?

1. Instances of trickery include Damian and May secretly passing notes; May making a key to the secret garden; May claiming she is following the orders of the gods; and May convincing January that he did not really see what he thought he saw when she and her lover are caught.

2. It is a fabliau.

3. The knight, the rituals, the gardens, and the palace are all elements of the romance.

4. Men are easily manipulated and made fools of by their wives.

5. Old men should not marry extremely young women.

6. He is very unhappily married.

7. The Host sympathizes with him.

8. January represents winter, the last of the cycles of life while May symbolizes spring when everything is new and lovely. These names refer to the ages of the characters.

9. They serve to demonstrate that January will not listen to any advice in this matter but is determined to do things his own way.

10. The Merchant is older and has possibly been the victim of a younger, unfaithful wife.

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