The Merchant's Tale - Quotes

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Appearance vs. Reality

General Prologue

"There wiste no wight that he was in dette" - e.g. "Flaundrissh bever hat"

Merchant's Tale

"Were it for hoolinesse or for dotage, I kan nat seye" On the surface he showed his desire for marriage as a religious act in order to get into heaven, but really just for lusty desires...

"For wedlock is so esy and so clene" but in reality it is "not childes pley"

"That in this world it is a paradis, Thus seyde this olde knight, that was so wis." January sees marriage life as a paradise; like the Garden of Eden, but eventually leads to destruction due to temptation (adultery). The Merchant's underlying tones of sarcasm about January's naivety is also highlighted ("that was so wis...").

"I am a gentil womman and no wenche"

"And eek to Januarie he gooth as lowe As evere did a dogge for the bowe"

"He is a gentil squier, by my trouthe"

"so meke a look hath she" (May)

"His fresshe May, his paradis, his make" His possessiveness is ironic, as she also gives herself to Damyan.

"langwissheth for love" - really just for lust...

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"bodily delit"

"hoolinesse or for dotage"

"paradis terrestre, and his disporte"

"fruit of his tresor"



"live wel they wyf, as Christ loved his Chirche"


"hir fresshe beautee and hir age tender"

"his fantasye"

"ravisshed in a traunce"

"But in his herte he gan hire to manace"

"hadde he greet pitee That thilke night offenden hire moste he"

"That sike Damyan in Venus fyr"

"unto his lust suffice"

"And with hir fynger signes modeste"

"Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng"

"Romance of the Rose"

"so brenneth that he dyeth for his desyr"

"labbing shrewe"


"lechour, in the tree"

"verray love"

"laurel alwey grene"


"paradis or helle"

"wantown cheere"

"lustily thy ride"

"When tendre youth wedded stooping age"

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